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Translated from the French by 






Copyright, 1931, by Harper & 

Brothers. Printed in the United 

States of America 









Chapter I 

Chapter II 













Vj?%. i» - **h *#*■ ^ aw C Mt * w /*• ^ <l ^ -i^«i .AwrT 


I. Goethe, by J. K. Stiegler 

~l. Beethoven, by August Kloeber 

3. Christiana Goethe, Bust by Weisser (1811) 

4. Beethoven, Bust by Franz Klein (i8ii) 

5. Mendelssohn as a Child, Drawing by Hensel 

6. Goethe, by Ferdinand Jagemann (1817) 

7. View of Teplitz (Bohemia) 

8. 9, 10. One of three lieder (Opus 83) dedicated by 

Beethoven to Goethe (18 10) — Wonne der Wehmut 
(The Ecstasy of Grief) 

11. Page of Manuscript from Egmont (reduced) 

iz, 13. Views of Marienbad, after Prints of the Time 

14. Beethoven, a Mask by Franz Klein (1811) 

15. Autograph of Goethe. A weekly schedule of the 

Hoftheater of Weimar announcing the perform- 
ances of Fidelio. (Unpublished collection of Ro- 
main Rolland) 

16. A Page of the Manuscript of Egmont 

17. Zelter, by P. J. Bardon 

18. Marianna von Willemer. A pastel (1819) 

19. Goethe, Bust by Klauer 

io. Goethe, by K. Ch. Vogel von Vogelstein 







4 1 



VIII ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

xi. Beethoven, by Malher (1814 or 1815) 75 

zz. Maria Szymanowska, Lithograph by Harlingue 78 

13. Goethe, by C. O. Kipinski 8z 

24. Ulrike von Levetzow 86 

Z5. Goethe, Mask by Johann Gottfried Schadow (1816) 116 

z6. Goethe's Study 12.6 

2.j. The Juno Room; Goethe's Home iz6 

2.8. View of Weimar, after a Print of the Time 14Z 
Z9. Goethe on His Death Bed, Drawing by Friedrich 

Preller 151 

30. Goethe's Death Chamber 156 

31. The Palace of the Ducal Family Where Goethe Was 

Often Received 156 

3Z. Bettina, after a Portrait of Her as a Young Girl 176 
33. Bettina, Drawing by Emil Grimm (Probably about 

1807) i8z 



The Springs at Marienbad iii 

Goethe's Summer-house at Weimar xvii 

Beethoven (About 182.0) Drawing by Tejcek 2. 

Goethe's Birthplace at Frankfurt- am-Main 3 

Beethoven (1813) Drawing by von Lifer 38 

Teplitz. A View of the Park 39 

Goethe (18 10) Drawing by Friedr. Wilh. Riemer 74 

Goethe's House at Weimar 75 

Christiana Goethe, Drawing by Goethe 96 

Teplitz. The Entrance to Schlossgarten (The Garden 

of the Chateau) 97 

Silhouette of Goethe before the Bust of a Dead Friend 

(About 1780) 160 

Weimar. Chateau Tiefurt. The Summer Residence of 

the Court, Often Frequented by Goethe 161 

Translator's Prefatory Note 

Of the two giants, Goethe and Beethoven, who are 
the subject of this book, Beethoven is probably far 
better known to the English-speaking public than 

There are two reasons for this. Beethoven addresses 
the world in the language of music, a universal lan- 
guage, which can be understood by many who have 
not made even an elementary study of it. There is 
hardly a concert-goer in the world who has not heard 
Beethoven's symphonies or sonatas, or who has had no 
opportunity of feeling the influence of that mighty 
composer. The second reason is that there are many 
more people who, as amateur or professional musi- 
cians, have formed a closer acquaintance with Bee- 
thoven than that of mere hearing. They have played 
his works, analyzed them, interpreted them, and often 
enough, attracted by his work, have enquired into his 
life and his psychology. They have found at their 
disposal a comprehensive mass of literature, easily 
accessible; they have read of him in critical essays 
published in the press. And Ernest Newman's excel- 
lent translation of Romain Rolland's Beethoven: the 

Creator has given those who read it, a deep insight 
into the composer's greatness. 

Not so with Goethe. To understand and appreciate 
him is reserved to the comparatively small community 
which has a perfect knowledge of German, for no 
translation can do him justice. And those who do not 
know any of his works lack the interest which would 
prompt them to enquire into the great poet's life, 
thought, work, and influence. 

Yet Goethe, the Olympian, as he is often called, 
was one of the greatest figures in literature which the 
world has known. He ranks with Homer, Virgil, 
Dante, and Shakespeare. Like these he belongs to the 
world rather than to a particular nation or race. He 
is, in literature, what Michelangelo and Raphael were 
in the realm of art, a sovereign master. 

And, just as Michelangelo was supreme in every 
branch of his gteat art — painting, frescoes and archi- 
tecture — so did Goethe excel in all that belongs to 
literature, from the short epigtam, the sonnet, and the 
Lied, through the ballad and the descriptive poem to 
that mighty work Faust which has only one equal, 
Dante's Divina Comedia. For Faust is not only a poem 
of gteat beauty and a dtamatic wotk of magnificent 
consttuction, but a deep psychological study of man 
and human natuie. Goethe's dramatic works are 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^= XI 

equally great. From comedy, even farcical comedy, to 
great tragedies, such as, apart from himself, only 
Shakespeare has given to the world, he mastered every 
conceivable form. And in prose writing — romance, 
travel description, etc. — he was as great and as pro- 
found as he was in verse and drama. 

Nor is that all. Goethe, who was not only a genius 
in literature, but a universal genius, perhaps the last of 
the few to whom this title may justly be given, was 
also a philosopher, a diplomat, a statesman, a scientist, 
an architect, and, as this book shows, a musician. And 
in all these realms he was a creator of the highest 
standard. His civil code, his works on colours, on 
botany (he was a forerunner of Darwin) made his- 
tory. He was also more than an amateur in the art of 

In this respect, then, Goethe was more eminent than 
even Dante, who, like Leonardo da Vinci and Michel- 
angelo, had mastered several branches of knowledge 
and art. And in this he surpassed Shakespeare, too. 

Goethe's striking personality, both as a poet and as 
a man, could not fail to attract many women who, in 
their turn, inspired him to some of his finest work. 
Many of them — though by no means all — are men- 
tioned in this book. They were of the most varying 
types: Friederike, the pastor of Sesenheim's charming 

XII ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

child; Frau von Stein, the beautiful and highly intel- 
lectual aristocrat; and Christiana, the fat, red-faced, 
uneducated housekeeper, whom he finally married. 
The procession of women extended throughout his 
long life, from youth to old age, when, a widower of 
seventy-nine, he wanted to marry a girl of nineteen 
with whom he had fallen in love. 

But among all these there was none upon whom 
Goethe had such a lasting influence, none whose in- 
fluence upon Goethe was more durable, and none, per- 
haps, who understood the poet better than Bettina von 
Arnim-Brentano, the writer, musician, and champion 
of political freedom, the great dreamer and great 

If Bettina had a deep insight into Goethe's gigantic 
mind, she had an equally clear understanding of one 
who was his peer as no other, Beethoven. It was she 
who formed the link between these two, influencing 
the poet, championing the composer, appreciating both 
with a clairvoyance such as probably no other of their 
contemporaries has shown. To her also a great part of 
the present book is devoted. 

Romain Rolland tells us of many occasions on which 
Goethe, after arduous planning and working, aban- 
doned what he had set out to do. We read of failure, 
defeat, and wasted time and energy. This only shows 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ XIII 
that the great man's colossal work did not exhaust the 
still vaster possibilities of his creative mind. Fate was 
kind to him in many ways, but he had nevertheless a 
fair share of trials and disappointments. Had he been 
granted the fulfilment of all that he conceived and 
undertook, then indeed he would have been the king 
amongst supermen. 

Romain Rolland's work, Goethe and Beethoven, 
will, it is hoped, be appreciated for the new light 
which it throws upon the relations of the two masters. 
It should prove also an inspiration to a wider and 
keener knowledge of two of the greatest men the 
world has ever known. 

G. A. P. 
E. S. K. 

Note of Acknowledgments 

The author and the publishers hereby extend thanks 
to all those who have assisted in the preparation of this 
volume. As in the case of Beethoven: the Creator, 
we have everywhere encountered the greatest spirit of 
cooperation, the most efficient aid. 

We take pleasure in expressing our gratitude 

To professor Max Hecker, Director of the Goethe 
and Schiller Archives of Weimar, who has given us 
permission to reproduce one of the three Lieder dedi- 
cated by Beethoven to Goethe; 

To Professor Johannes Wolf, Director of the Prus- 
sian State Library of Berlin, who entrusted to us, for 
purposes of reproduction, two pages of the manuscript 
of Egmont; 

To the Director of the Frankfurt Museum, from 
whom we obtained the little known portrait of Bettina 
as a girl. 

We owe a special vote of thanks to Professor Anton 
Kippenberg, the eminent Director of the Insel-Verlag, 
who has more than once given us the benefit of his 
valuable advice and has allowed us to reproduce several 
items from his private collection, among them: the 

XVI ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

letter from Beethoven to Zelter, the views of Weimar, 
Teplitz and Marienbad which illustrate this volume, 
the portrait of Goethe by C. O. Kipinsky, the sketch of 
Goethe on his deathbed by Friedrich Preller, etc. 

We are indebted also to Dr. Eugen Rentsch, Director 
of the Rotapfel-Verlag, and to Professor Max Fried- 
laender, the eminent historian and musicologist, who 
have shown a ready willingness to assist us. 

To all of them our sincere thanks. 


I have compared the writing of my book, Beethoven: 
the Creator ■, to a journey to the depths of Cyclops' 
smithy. When an old man like myself, who can count 
more than sixty years, embarks on travels as laborious 
as these, prudence suggests that he should not linger 
by the way, but make straight for the goal. 

On the other hand, the journey's end never con- 
cerns me very much: it is the road which interests me 
if only it lie in the right direction. I never hurry. 
Poor creature that I am, existing since childhood's days 
under the ever-present threat of a life to be cut short, 
I have always lived as if a hundred years were my 
span — or as if I must die tomorrow. It matters little 
to me. The essential thing is the completion of the 
task to which my hand is set. 

XVIII ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

On my Beethoven exploration, many a wayfarer 
has stopped me on the way; he has much to tell me 
and my ears are always open: I was born to be the 
confidant both of the living and of the dead. . . . 
Here are two whose lives were entwined with Bee- 
thoven's. One is Bettina, wild yet wise, a dreamer all 
her life; yet the eyes of the sleep-walker beheld Bee- 
thoven and Holderlin, the men of genius whom their 
keenest contemporaries disowned. It was Bettina who 
foresaw the great revolutions. The other is Goethe, 
the teacher and comrade of every day of my life. In 
his works without number I have sought constant 
counsel since I was thirty years old, just as in the 
old days, when the shadows lengthened and the mind 
turned to its secrets, men used to open the family 
Bible. (You remember Faust, silent and meditative, 
in the twilight of his chamber.) 

Goethe has never sent me away thirsty, or depressed 
me with long-dead principles. His were no abstract 
ideas, no a priori notions; he poured out a stream of 
lively and novel experiences, nature's spring, in which 
my youth was renewed. They are but few, even among 
the men of genius, whose souls commune unceasingly 
with the Spirit of the Earth, the Erdgeist. Goethe and 
Beethoven were two of the chosen of the Great 
Mother. But the one, he who was deaf, hearkened 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ XIX 

without understanding to the call from the depths, 
while the other beheld all, but heard part only. Bet- 
tina accompanies the two; intoxicated with dreamy 
visions and with love, she sees and hears nothing, 
groping for the path, stretching out her feverish 
fingers into the darkness. 

To the readers of my Beethoven I offer this respite 
in my Odyssey upon what I have called that inner sea 
of Beethoven, begging them to rest awhile with me 
as Odysseus did in the land of Alcinous. 

In these hurried times I love to breathe quietly as 
I lie outstretched in the valley of Villeneuve,* my 
hands clasped under my head, beneath the flowering 
cherry trees, on a day of the new-born spring. I gaze 
upon the vault of heaven and the changeless course 
of the centuries. ... I recall talks in the Bohemian 
forest, Teplitz, the twin deities Goethe and Beethoven, 
and the love-lorn elegy of Bettina, "Nina, love's mad- 
dened victim." 

Four essays compose this book. The first and the 
longest was once published in the review Euro pa; I 
have revised and completed it. The three others deal 
with the same subject, but present it from other points 
of view. Goethe's life was like an arrow shot from a 

* Translator's Note — Romain Rolland's villa is at Villeneuve, Switzerland. 

XX ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
bow, which, once loosed, cannot be stayed in its flight 
to the ever receding target. The problem of that life 
is so vast even now, a hundred years after his death, 
and remains so fresh and vital, that truth, as I think, 
invites me to retain the freedom of presentment which 
I have displayed in these independent studies. In this 
way alone can I hope to follow the wonderful plas- 
ticity of the great model. 

Music, I repeat, is the heroine of my story. I present 
her here not only as the companion of Beethoven- 
Dionysus, but as a Muse also; to Goethe, the Apollo 
of Weimar, she is not the least beloved of the Muses, 
a fact too little known. The main object of my book 
is to remind my hearers that the greatest poet of mod- 
ern Europe belongs also to the fellowship of musi- 
cians. He is the river into which the twain converge, 
into which flow the twin streams of poetry and music, 
as do indeed all the streams of our Earth. 

April 15th, 1930 Romain Rolland 



1811, 1812. ... Autumn, the bountiful, with her 
vintage. The golden hues of the forest, the blazing 
sunset sky. The last days of love's autumnal splen- 
dour. 1 And the brief encounter of the two suns, Bee- 
thoven and Goethe. For centuries destiny had been 
shaping the converging course of these two planets 
of poetry and music. The meeting was soon over; 
the hour which had struck was quickly past. They 
met, they parted to follow each his course. Must we 
wait a thousand years yet for such another meeting? 
Happy were the eyes which beheld them. I look into 
these eyes to fathom the scenes that dwell there. In 
the bosom of the lake the reflection of parting day may 
yet be seen. 

Though separated, they had long known each other. 

But their knowledge was not equal; it was Beethoven 
who knew the other better. 

From his earliest days he had steeped his mind in 
Goethe's works. He worshipped him, 2 he read Goethe 
every day. Goethe had taken the place which Klop- 
stock had once filled in his heart. 

"Klopstock always prays for death, and indeed he 
died soon enough, but Goethe lives and we must all 
live with him. That is why he is so easy to set to 
music. No writer may be set to music so readily." 3 

In his first conversation with Bettina in May, 1810, 
he had told her how much Goethe's poems fascinated 
him, "not only by their contents, but also by their 
rhythm. This language, composed after the noblest 
design, like an edifice erected by spirit hands, drives 
me, exalts me to write music. The secret of the har- 
monies is engrafted in it." 

Bettina finds him aflame with the fire of inspiration 
which gave to the world two Goethe Lieder, and what 
Liederl What music! Trocknet nicht, Thranen! ("Dry 
not, oh tears") and Mignon. 

During the same year he wrote the music to Eg- 
mont y and since 1808 he had been thinking of setting 
Faust to music. 

"To set to music" a poem was not for him, as for 
most composers, a labour of representation, a pic- 

turesque commentary on the words of the poem. It 
was a deep penetration of the verse, an intimate in- 
termingling, as it were, of body and soul. It has not 
been sufficiently recognized that his words on the pur- 
suit of melody, as reported by Bettina, refer actually 
to his attempts to fathom those of Goethe's thoughts 
which he desired to fuse with music. 

"I must set myself therefore at the very focal point 
of enthusiasm; thence shall mighty discharges of mel- 
ody flash forth far and near 5 (Da muss ich denn von 
dem Brennpunkt der Begeisterung die Melodie nach 
alien Seiten ausladen). 

"Melody! I pursue her, I clasp her with new fire, she 
slips from me, is lost in the midst of vague impressions. 
Soon, driven by surging passions, I seize her again. I 
cannot loose myself from her, I must perpetuate her in 
a spasm of ecstasy with every urge of soul and body. 
And then, at the last, I triumph over her, I possess her 
whom I have pursued, for whom I have longed. And, 
behold — a symphony. . . . Yes, music is in very truth 
the mediator between the life of the senses and the life 
of the spirit (J a, Musik ist so recht die V ermittelung 
des geistigen Lebens zum Sinnlichen). I long to talk 
of this to Goethe. Would he understand me?" 

He declares "Melody is the sensual life of poetry 
(Melodie ist das sinnliche Leben der Poesie). Is it 

not through melody that the indwelling spirit of the 
poem permeates our being? Does not the melody of 
Mignon convey to us the whole sensual atmosphere 
(Stimmung) of the Lied? 6 And since our senses have 
responded to this impression, do they not react to it, 
are they not fired with a passion to continue their 
creative work?" . . . 

Here Bettina attributes to Beethoven the intuition 
of a musical subconsciousness a thousand times deeper 
and vaster than the thought expressed by these words, 
stamping him thus as a forerunner of Schopenhauer 
and Wagner. 

He turns again to Goethe, and his appeal becomes 
more insistent: 

"Speak to Goethe of me; tell him that he must hear 
my symphonies! He will agree with me that music is 
the single, the immaterial entry into a higher world 
of knowledge which envelops man but which he can- 
not understand. . . . What the soul receives from 
music through the senses is spiritual revelation incar- 
nate. ... It is thus, if you understand me, that you 
must write of me to Goethe! . . . With all my heart 
I long for him to teach me." 

But here, before resuming our way, we must stay a 
moment, and weigh the value of Bettina's testimony. 

Although I cannot in this essay attempt to solve the 
enigma of this extraordinary woman, of whom I shall 
try to give a more detailed account elsewhere, 7 I must 
sketch for the reader an outline at least of the basic 
facts of the problem, and add the conclusions which 
I have reached. 

We are now able to get a clear view of her mind. 
Some years ago her authentic correspondence with 
Goethe was published. Critical essayists have compared 
very carefully the wording of these letters. 8 In spite of 
gaps due to the disappearance of important letters, it is 
possible for us today, especially as to the period which 
concerns us, definitely to sift certainties from possi- 
bilities, possibilities from errors or inventions. The 
enigma of Bettina then no longer exists save for those 
who fail to understand the soul of women, or who 
lack the gift of that sympathy without which the doors 
of intelligence can never open. 

No, she was in no way a "Sibyl of the North," 
as some of the modern historians have called the 
little Bettina Brentano of 1807 to 1810! When we 
describe a character, we must define clearly the period 
of which we speak; nothing remains constant during 
the course of a life time, least of all with a woman 
like Bettina, the slave of her own wild and tender 

8 ^^ 

Later, the features will alter, age will stamp them 
with many a wrinkle, and the youthful smile will lose 
its charm. And Goethe's eyes did not look upon her 
with the same favour in 1825 as they did in 1807. — 
But here we are concerned with the little Mignon, from 
her twentieth to her twenty-fifth year. 9 

A Mignon she appeared to her intimate friends, 
and to Goethe when they first met. And that is hov\ r 
she sees herself, as soon as she meets Mignon in Wil- 
helm Meister. She identifies herself with the character 
of Mignon, with her longing (Sehnsucht), her fate, 
"with everything," she says "except with her death"; 
for the demon of life possessed her. 

She is small of stature, with a pale complexion, dark 
eyes like deep pools, and a mass of black curls. 10 
Usually she wears a long trailing black dress, with 
a thick cord round her waist, like a pilgrim; she is 
independent of fashion and utterly unable to conform 
to the correctitude of polite society; she feels awk- 
ward on a chair, and is usually to be found crouching 
on a low stool, or perched in a window recess. She 
bubbles with life and laughter, or is lost in the deepest 
melancholy; she is fundamentally a great dreamer, to 
whom life is but a vision. 

Young Alois Bihler, who drew this portrait of 
Bettina 11 at the moment when she was about to meet 

Beethoven, could not sufficiently idolize and admire 
this charming girl — the riches of her mind, the bounti- 
ful spring of her fancy, her poetical passion, her natu- 
ral grace, and the kindness of her heart. She was then 
twenty- five, but appeared to be only eighteen, or twenty 
at most; there was in her nothing false, nothing mean: 
she displayed a generosity without limit, of both mind 
and heart, and spontaneity without compare. 

1810. . . . It is the year when Goethe, for long very 
reserved, is most in love with her, for he, too, has been 
unable to resist her charms. 12 It is the year, too, when 
she feels nearest to him and loves him utterly. Her 
whole existence is permeated with a passion for 
Goethe, dazzling and self-sufficing, a passion sealed 
with the mystical ring which, at their first meeting, he 
had been rash enough to put on her finger. Her letters 
of January and February, 1810, show that she was 
entirely absorbed in him, like the lovelorn Teresa of 
Avila. Nor must we think that Goethe wearied of 
this excessive adoration. He lapped it up, as a cat laps 
up sweetened milk. Not only does he thank Bettina 
for her love (February, 1810), but, having received no 
renewed protestations of affection for a whole month, 
he becomes uneasy and asks for them (May 10, 1810). 
He never parts with Bettina's letters; he takes them 
with him on his travels. 

10 ^ 

Now, it is in these circumstances that Bettina meets 
Beethoven for the first time. For what reason, unless 
at the call of an imperious sincerity, should she have 
written to Goethe that she had fallen in love with 
Beethoven and that he had vanquished her? Why else 
should she passionately have espoused Beethoven's 
cause, a course which — as she might well have known, 
and in fact did discover later on — was by no means 
to Goethe's liking. 

Let me first continue the famous story which Bettina 
published years later. 13 

She had been staying for some time in Vienna with 
her brother, Franz Brentano, who had married Toni 
Birkenstock. The young couple were both faithful 
friends of Beethoven and kept up the noble traditions 
of art and learning of father-in-law Birkenstock, the 
friend of Franklin and Robertson. It was the month 
of May, a beautiful May, aflame with sunshine; Bet- 
tina's letters to Goethe are full of the splendour of 
gardens in flower, of the overpowering fragrance of 
the glass houses all open to the air. 14 

Bettina had heard one of Beethoven's sonatas which 
had overwhelmed her; 15 she longs to meet the com- 
poser. Everybody tries to dissuade her. Beethoven, they 
say, is unapproachable; no one even knows where he 
lives. Bettina, more than ever determined, takes the 




1 J^M -*-"*• V *J ' wtk 


9^ -9m 


r M \ 




= 11 

risk. She finds the house; she enters. 16 He is seated at 
the piano and does not see her. She bends over him, 
whispering into his ear, "I am Betty Brentano." He 
turns round suddenly and sees this pretty girl with 
wide-open eyes which pierce his very thoughts; he notes 
her intense sympathy, her burning cheeks, when he sings 
to her "Kennst du das Land" her throbbing soul, her 
fervent enthusiasm. How could he have resisted her? 
She was equally captivated. In fact much more so 
than he. 

"When 1 saw him, I forgot the whole world. 
When I remember our meeting, the world van- 
ishes, . . . vanishes. . . . " 

She is so possessed by Beethoven that this giant, with 
his terrible loneliness, has become part of her; she 
shares the desert with him, and when the hot wind 
sears her she seeks refuge in the gentle affection and 
the fatherly tenderness of Goethe. Psycho-analysts 
should study the whole beginning of this letter to 
Goethe (in the Briefwechsel of 1835). It contains in- 
deed a striking "mediumistic" phenomenon. Bettina's 
mind was one peculiarly susceptible to the electric 11 
waves of other minds heavily charged with genius. The 
word electricity recurs often in her conversation with 

12 = 

Now she was fortunate in surprising Beethoven in 
the throes of a passionate crisis, in the grip of a creative 
trance, a "raptus," as he called it next day when she 
reminded him of what he had said. 18 

These conversations became the rule, for Beethoven, 
fascinated, would not let Bettina go, accompanied her 
to the Brentanos' house, took her for walks; Bettina, 
enraptured too, forgot everybody and everything but 
Beethoven — "Society, the picture galleries, the the- 
atres, and even the spire of St. Stephen's Cathe- 
dral. ..." Their discussions were on serious matters, 
a fact which later on Schindler doubted on the some- 
what puerile ground that Beethoven had never men- 
tioned it to him. But Schindler was not Bettina. When 
Beethoven, in his old age, addressed him, what he saw 
was the gloomy, obsequious face of his famulus, whose 
invariable complaint was, "It's raining." 19 Famuli do 
not inspire poets; they must be content with prose! 

However, I am reserving the discussion of those of 
Beethoven's thoughts which Bettina reports, to another 
essay dealing more particularly with music. What con- 
cerns us here, in our history of the relations between 
Goethe and Beethoven, is whether the facts are true 
and Bettina's impressions sincere. There is no room 
for doubt either of the one or of the other. Apart 
from Bettina's letters to Goethe (in the Briefwechsel 

= 13 

of 1835) and to Prince Hermann von PUckler-Muskau, 
the text of which can be questioned because they were 
published so much later, the letter to young Alois 
Bihler, of July 9, 1810, which is undoubtedly authen- 
tic, establishes the truth of her meeting with Beethoven 
and the shattering impressions which he made on her. 
He was extremely ugly, and this struck Bettina, who 
loved beauty above everything, more than any other 
woman; she could never really love Beethoven. Never- 
theless, she was fascinated from the first moment, and 
remained so to the end — tf lch habe diesen Mann un- 
endlich lieb gewonnen" ("I have become infinitely 
fond of this man"). 

What conquered her was the sublime greatness 
(Herrlichkezt), the unequalled sincerity (Wahrheit), 
of Beethoven, as expressed in his art. Moreover, she 
was attracted by his naive attitude towards life, his 
complete defencelessness. The way in which people 
treated him revolted her. From that moment she de- 
voted herself to his cause; 20 we shall see how loyally 
she defended him, even against those whose prejudices 
it would have been to her interest to overlook. 

That she conquered Beethoven is equally certain. 
Her letter to Bihler tells us how assiduously Beethoven 
sought her company. During his last days in Vienna 
he never left her, he could not part from her, and 

14 ^= 

when he had to go he begged her to write to him at 
least once a month, because he had no other friend. 

Beethoven's authentic letter to Bettina, dated Febru- 
ary 10, 18 ll, 21 tells us that she had written to him on 
two occasions and that Beethoven had carried these 
letters on his person during the whole summer, that 
he had been delighted with them, and that, in spirit, 
he had written her a thousand letters. He expresses his 
love, he sends kisses, and probably writes in much 
stronger terms than he would care to confess. That 
this man, immured from the world, living at that time 
in a state of artistic trance, blind, deaf, and insensible 
to all that was outside, intoxicated with the harmonies 
which filled his soul, 22 with the passionate communion 
which he held with the god within him, like one of 
the prophets of the Sistine* — that this damned-up tor- 
rent, suddenly finding an outlet, should have poured 
forth without restraint all the thoughts which were 
choking him, is in itself overwhelming evidence of 
his affection. 

And now Bettina is to transmit to Goethe these 
thoughts of Beethoven. This point, too, is confirmed 
to us by evidence, although the circumstances were not 
quite as she told them. 

* Translator's Note. — On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michel- 
angelo painted his famous fresco showing the prophets of the Old Testa- 
ment in the attitude of passionate oration. 

= 15 

When in 1834-35 Bettina published her Brief- 
wechsel, she did not trouble about literal precision, and 
made no claim to it. After Goethe's death she had 
secured through Councillor von Miiller the return of 
her letters written to the master. These she now pub- 
lished, but not in the disorder of style and thought of 
the originals. 

She rewrote them and condensed several into one. 
And more, she completed them with her recollections 
of conversations she had had, using, perhaps, notes 
which she had made at the time, according to the cus- 
tom of the day. We may be sure that she had often 
thought over her conversations with Beethoven, which, 
as we shall see, frequently puzzled her, and which 
she fully understood only many years later. She had 
no intention, in acting thus, to treat the truth lightly; 
on the contrary, she desired to express it more fully 
and more worthily on behalf of those whose memory 
she wished to serve. Having thus recast the letters, 
she gave them an approximate date, I might almost 
say a synthetic date, because one letter often covers 
correspondence and conversations extending over sev- 
eral months. The value to the historian of the Brief- 
wechsel is in effect the value of Bettina's admitted 
powers of seeing, hearing, and understanding, pow- 
ers which include a wise estimate as to how far it 

16 ^ 

may be in her interest — she is quite unconscious of 
this — to speak the naked truth or to embellish it. 
This must be borne in mind as each letter is read. 
Whenever Goethe alone is the subject, it is advisable, 
no doubt, to remember Bettina's lovelorn tendency to 
idealize him, and to mingle her own life with that of 
her idol. 

This, however, does not apply to Beethoven. 

On the contrary, Bettina's worship of Goethe should 
have prompted her to neglect Beethoven, to avoid hurt- 
ing Goethe, who, on this particular occasion, is of sec- 
ondary importance to her. But she does nothing of the 
kind. Bettina battles bravely and passionately for 
Beethoven against everybody. Nothing in her whole 
life does her greater honour. It is only when we see her 
thus at close range that we discover the depth of her 
loyalty, in contrast with her superficial shortcomings, 
and appreciate the instinct of justice which in her is 
even stronger than the claims of love. 24 

In her Briefwechsel of 1835, Bettina publishes a let- 
ter which she is supposed to have written to Goethe on 
May 28, 1810, immediately after her first meetings 
with Beethoven, a letter glowing with the flame of his 
fiery words. 

It is probable that she wrote down her thoughts every 
evening when she was alone after these memorable 


;■ • M 


' & 

= 17 

meetings. For we see how, for months afterwards, she 
is troubled by them; they had caused a revolution in 
her mind. It is even possible that the rough notes of 
what had been said were shown to Beethoven, who, 
surprised when he read, in a quiet moment, the con- 
fidences uttered in an hour of abandon, is said to have 
exclaimed: "What? I said that? I? I must have been 
carried away!" But, in fact, the letter to Goethe was 
written only at the beginning of July, after Bettina had 
left Vienna and while she was enjoying, in her country 
home at Bukowan, a quiet time in which to recall the 
great memories of the month of May. 

How deep and lasting had been the shock which 
Beethoven's advent had caused is shown by a little 
incident. In June, her brother Clemens came to join 
her with his friend, young Arnim. The latter, who felt 
sure that she returned his affection, found her distant 
and absorbed in thought. She told him that she meant 
to devote her life to the great cause of the time, to 
music ("Hzngeben zu grossen Z wee ken der Zeit, an 
Musik" ) . And when Arnim left, deeply distressed, and 
begged her in his letters to return his love, Bettina 
replied, affectionately and sincerely, that she would 
like to make him happy, but that she could not read 
clearly what was in her heart. Already in 1809 she had 
vaguely hinted to Arnim how fascinated she was by 

18 = 

music ( "die Fesseln die mir die Musik anlegt"). The 
meetings with Beethoven had strenghtened these 
bonds; opposing forces were at work within her. 

On July 7th she began a long letter to Goethe, only 
to interrupt it twice; she continued it on the 13th, then 
on the 28th; she tried to pour into it the tide of feeling 
which had accumulated during the last three months. 
One feels that it obsessed her and that she could not 
free herself from her reflective mood. 25 

She put off time after time the moment when she 
was to utter what concerned her most. ... At last she 
made up her mind, and began the account of her meet- 
ing with Beethoven. The words she used are the same 
as those which she employed at the opening of her 
imaginary letter published in 1835. In the latter she 
omitted some redundances. In the original letter she 
also insisted more on the common love for Goethe 
which had brought her closer to Beethoven. Her 
scheme is clear; in order to persuade Goethe to listen 
to her, she introduced Beethoven under the banner of 
Goethe. . . . Behold him! Bettina's heart is full to the 
brim; it is overflowing: 

"And now, watch!" ("Jetzt, giebt Achtl") I am 
going to tell you of Beethoven: ( fr An dies em geht die 
ganze Welt auf und nieder wie . . .") 20 ("The whole 
world rises and falls around him, as . . ."). 

= 19 

And with these mysterious words the letter abruptly 
ended; the sentence was left unfinished. Bettina could 
not continue. . . . It was impossible. . . . She had too 
mrch to say. . . . 

Goethe, then at Karlsbad, wrote, on July 22nd, to 
his wife that he had received a short note from Bettina, 
without date or address, informing him that she would 
either come to Weimar in the near future or write him 
a long letter. Bettina, who had felt how very difficult 
it was to express in writing to Goethe the overwhelm- 
ing emotion which the discovery of Beethoven had 
roused in her, and who, no doubt, had written more 
than one letter, only to destroy it again, left her con- 
fession to the next meeting. It would be easier to speak 
than to write it. 

This meeting took place sooner than either Bettina 
or Goethe expected. It so happened that while Goethe 
was summoned to Teplitz by his grand duke, Bettina, 
on her way to Berlin by way of Prague, passed through 
Teplitz, heard that Goethe was there, and hurried to 
meet him. In two days, two beautiful days of happy 
intimacy, August 10 and 11, 1810, she poured out at 
last in full flood the revelation which had enriched her 
life, which had shaken it to the depths. 

"She has talked to me endlessly," writes Goethe, "of 

20 ^ 

her adventures old and new" (J f Sie hat mir unendliches 
erzahlt von alten und neuen Abenteuern"). 

The new adventures were her meeting with Bee- 
thoven. Goethe avoids mentioning his name; he refuses 
to attach importance to Bettina's enthusiasm. What was 
his opinion of Beethoven? He thought very little of 
him at that time, 27 and, as we shall see, not much good, 
either. But at that moment he was too much taken with 
the charms of the pretty girl to stop her flow of narra- 
tive. He was watching her lips, without listening to 
the words. 

"Bettina was really prettier and more charming than 
ever" (^'Bettina war wirklich hubscher und Uebenswur- 
diger wie sonst"). So he writes very foolishly the day 
after her departure, to his jealous Christiana, who 
never forgot it. 

He was not listening, and yet he heard. . . . What 
was Bettina saying? 

She was telling him what she wrote later on in her 
imaginary letter of 1835. This was not an exact account 
of her first visit to Beethoven, but of all her visits com- 
bined, all the days they spent together, all the walks, 
the reflections, and the overwhelming impression made 
on her by this great man; distance lent him an added 
stature in her mind and vivid recollections crowned 
him, as it were, with a halo. 

= 21 
I have no reason whatever to doubt the material 
accuracy and the moral certainty of her impressions, 
though the words which she attributed to Beethoven 
in her version of 1835 are probably not literally 

Bettina's burning imagination has probably gilded 
the picture, and the artistic gifts natural to her were 
no doubt responsible for its composition. But her pic- 
ture of Beethoven is as true as that famous painting 
by Claude Lorrain of the Roman Campagna. Scrupu- 
lous realism could not reproduce more faithfully the 
plains of Rome and the brilliance of the light. Thus 
with the Beethoven whom Bettina saw and painted. 
No other eye has fathomed the depth of his genius so 
deeply as hers; feminine intuition absorbed his secret 
thoughts even before Beethoven himself had a clear 
conception of them. 28 It is a plunge into the fiery 
furnace of the Cyclops. Bettina listened, just as 
Beethoven spoke, in a raptus, and that is why she per- 
ceived what ponderous intellectuals, who know noth- 
ing of the lightning which illumines the soul, are 
unable to grasp. 

Goethe, however, knew this lightning and did not 
appreciate it, he realized its danger, and preferred a 
horizon free from it. What, then, did Goethe think? 
Interested, but rather at a loss, he refused to take very 

22 = 

seriously what he called later on Bettina's (e Wunder- 
Uche Grillen" ("Strange whims"). 29 But his ever alert 
psychological curiosity was at the same time attracted 
and repulsed, by these "problematical characteristics, 
all the more so because they are so difficult to define 
and to decipher." 30 He was struck by the extraordinary 
figure conjured up by Bettina; later we shall see this 
from the haste, so unusual in him, with which he went 
to see Beethoven at Teplitz. Goethe probably never 
wrote, and for good reasons, the letter of June 6th, 
which Bettina attributes to him, 81 and which would 
have been written soon after she left. It must be added 
that, not content with their long conversations, she left 
with him a lengthy written account, and sent him, three 
days later, yet another letter, even more ardent than 
those which preceded it. Goethe replied on August 
17th, expressing both the surprise and the joy which he 
derived from these pages which she had given him and 
which he read over and over again. "And now comes 
your last letter which surpasses all the others. . . ." 
Never before had Bettina made a stronger impression 
upon Goethe. 32 Never before had he formed a higher 
conception of her mental capacity; and as, in his genial 
egoism, he was apt to judge other people by the value 
of the spiritual booty which they brought him, he im- 
mediately bore witness to the high esteem which he had 


conceived for her, by associating her with his own 

At that time, then, Beethoven would have been very 
near to forcing an entrance into Goethe's intellectual 
sympathy, had not a third person been present at these 
conversations who counteracted Bettina's efforts, Zelter. 

We know of the solid friendship which bound 
Goethe to this clumsy artisan of music, this good fel- 
low, sound musician, perfect Philistine, and faithful 
Achates to his JEneas. No other bonds proved more 
durable than this friendship. It has its noble side; but 
a deplorable law governing genius seems to decree that, 
with the superior mind, a strong dose of mediocrity in 
the other is required to satisfy the needs of friendship. 
A genius will form only a passing friendship with his 
peers. After Schiller's death the circle in which Goethe 
lived was, almost without exception, astonishingly bar- 
ren; it comprised provincial bourgeois twenty years 
behind their time, dense, narrow, and warped. Young 
people who called on him were often scandalized at 
this. In his band of workmen, whose devotion was 
unshakable, Zelter was, and remained to the end, the 
foreman, the sole oracle on the subject of music. It was 
on his sincere and obtuse lack of understanding that 
Goethe passively relied in deciding what to admire and 
what to reject. 

24 = 

What then, did his Zelter tell him of Beethoven? 34 

November 12, 1808. . . . "With admiration and 
awe we behold will-o'-the-wisps on the horizon of 
Parnassus, talents of the greatest significance, like Bee- 
thoven's, using the club of Hercules to kill flies. At first 
we are surprised, then we shrug our shoulders at the 
sight of this display of talent, employed to invest trivial 
things with importance." 

A little later 35 he became more virulent. Speaking 
of Beethoven's works, he was not content to refer to 
them as monsters "whose father might be a woman, 
or whose mother might be a man"; he suspected them 
of being immoral. Christ on the Mount of Olives, 
which, no doubt, is not a great work, but which cer- 
tainly does not deserve this clamour of outraged 
modesty, he considered to be "an unclean work (Un- 
keuschheit) the reason and the end of which is ever- 
lasting death. I know," he continues, "music-lovers 
who used to show alarm, or even indignation, on hear- 
ing these works; now, however, they are roused by 
them to an enthusiasm which is akin to that of the 
devotees of Greek sexual perversion. . . ." (J r Wie die 
Anhanger der griechischen Lie be"). 

The art of the chaste and virile Beethoven accused 
of immodesty and sexual perversion! It might be called 
a malevolent and foolish joke! It would be laughable, 

= 25 

if we did not remember into whose ears this poison was 
poured, though by a hand which we must admit to be 
without malice, as Zelter himself proved later. . . . 
"Unbalanced, monstrous, immodest, perverted Art:" in 
ten lines Zelter found everything which could erect an 
everlasting barrier between Goethe and Beethoven. 

Bettina, then, met Zelter at Goethe's house on the 
evening of August 11, 1810, at Teplitz. We can 
imagine the unkind remarks, the scoffing, the clumsy 
arguments, the rough-and-ready words with which 
Zelter commented on the mystic-musical flights of Bet- 
tina. The little cat arched her back and spat at the 
growling cur from Berlin. Goethe, in a short note of 
August 13th in which he praised Bettina's charm, says: 
"But towards other people she is very rude" (J'Aber 
gegen and ere Menschen sehr unartig"). 

When Bettina left Teplitz she took with her a solid 
hatred of Zelter. She ruminated over it the whole 
winter. In this, again, she showed her loyalty. She 
knew perfectly well that it was dangerous to attack 
Zelter's influence on Goethe, that it was labour lost, 
and that she risked the forfeiture of her idol's good 
will. Nevertheless, she refused to forgive this "Philis- 
tine," as she called him, his gross and malevolent lack 
of understanding of Beethoven. When she met him 
again in Berlin, where poor Arnim was ill advised 

26 ^ 

enough to recommend Zelter to her as a teacher of 
harmony, and was snubbed for it, her letters to Goethe 
were filled with sarcastic references to the clumsy 
pedant "whose bones are so large and whose waistcoat 
is so long" V'mit so breiten Knochen, und so lunger 
Weste"). She puts them all into the same bag, these 
Berlin pedants — Zelter, Reichardt, Rigini, and Him- 
mel; they were always quarrelling, always barking at 
one another and at the passers-by. Let them bite and 
bludgeon one another, but the great men, the glorious 
dead and Beethoven, must be left in peace. 88 

Goethe frowned. He had hoped that these musical 
fancies would be forgotten, like the whims of a pretty 
woman. When he found that they were an obsession he 
was annoyed. At first he was guarded, for he had need 
of Bettina. For the memoirs which he intended to write 
he must draw on recollections of his boyhood, and 
Bettina had gathered the details from the lips of his 
mother during the days which the two women spent 
together, hours of delight in which they pictured once 
again the sunrise of the young god. Goethe himself, 
strange to say, remembered nothing of his youth; his 
Frankfurt days were dead. Without the help of her 
who had been his mother's youthful confidante, he 
could not have described a single incident of his earlier 
years. Thus he had to extract from Bettina those treas- 




1 " ' i 


blBP - * m 


?m ?il 


yM |v 9 


§14 JjLl 



■ t -*\ 

= 27 
ures which she had gathered for her own delight. Drop 
by drop she distilled them for him, interpolating un- 
kind remarks about Zelter, and introducing the nebu- 
lous theories of her fevered brain on "music-revela- 
tion" and the genius of Beethoven, fancies which are 
illumined at times by a lightning flash of inspiration. 87 
Goethe had to accept all she gave him. His bad temper 
was only revealed by his silence, but his resentment 
grew. Some words in his letter of January 11, 1811, 
show it: 

"On many occasions you are as stubborn as a mule 
and especially when you speak of music. In your little 
silly head you concoct some extraordinary fancies; how- 
ever, I am not going to lecture you or cause you any 

In other words, "You can talk as long as you like; 
I shall not honour you by a discussion." 

During this winter of 1810-11 Goethe broke with 
Bettina. He thought he was the only lord and master 
of this fascinating mind, the dual nature of which, 
Italian and German-Rhenish (she was the daughter of 
his early-beloved Maximiliana La Roche), attracted 
him. She had come to him, and it seemed as if she 
were his. Now, while reassuring the god of Weimar of 
her admiration, she parted company with him in order 
to follow the new revelation which had come to her 

28 ^= 

from Beethoven and to identify herself with the young 
romantic movement in Germany! 

After long hesitation, Bettina became engaged to 
Arnim (December 4, 1810) and married him in the 
following spring (March 11th). The letter in which she 
informed Goethe of this event, and which was written 
two months later (May 11th), is really devoted more 
to Goethe than to Arnim; no doubt her sincere affec- 
tion for Arnim was a very pale flame compared with 
her passion for Goethe, which lasted all her life. But, 
unconsciously, Goethe thought himself betrayed, and 
smarted under the disappointment. The wound was 
above all intellectual. Achim von Arnim, a young 
gentleman of letters, was worthy of the highest esteem 
both for his talent and for his character; he showed for 
Goethe much respect and consideration, which the 
elder man appreciated; but in the domain of the intel- 
lect Arnim, like Beethoven, with due regard to the 
difference between the two, was the enemy. I am 
wrong, he was not; it is Goethe who was Arnim's 
enemy. The tide of neo-romanticism which was rising 
round him troubled and exasperated him. He believed 
that the whole edifice of his life was threatened with 
destruction. And though the new generation asked 
nothing better than to kneel before him, and receive 
the accolade of chivalry, he could scarcely hide from 

= 29 

them his animosity. It broke forth with unrestrained 
violence in a letter written in October, 1810, the object 
of which was, as a matter of fact, the noble-minded 
and innocent Arnim. 

"There are moments," Goethe writes, "when they 
drive me to distraction. I have to control myself so as 
not to be rude to Arnim, who sent me his Countess 
Dolores, which I like well. If I had a son gone astray, 
I would rather know that he had wandered into 
brothels, and even into pigsties, than that he should 
lose himself in the bedlam of the present day, for I fear 
that from this hell there is no salvation." 39 

What do those who always see in Goethe an Olym- 
pic figure think of this flow of brutal temper? If we 
wish to understand his aversion for his time, let us 
think of our own days, of the present crisis in Euro- 
pean art, uprooted today as then by a World War and 
by social upheavals; let us note the confusion of faked 
folly, faked reasoning, faked religion, faked poetry; 
let us consider the degradation of the mind which 
swings frantically like a pendulum from anarchy to 
serfdom, from the excesses of liberty to the excesses of 
tyranny! An epoch which, perhaps, in spite of its basic 
incoherence and destructive fury, may be pregnant with 
greatness, a necessary transition from a dying world to 
a world yet to be born. . . . But a man like Goethe, 

30 ^= 

who knew what it had cost him to establish order in 
his art and in his life, could not see all that he had 
won in imminent danger or ruined, without a feeling 
of disgust. This sentiment was all the stronger because 
of his keen insight into the dangers which beset the 
German mentality with its chronic lack of balance. He 
had felt, too, very deeply the disgrace to which these 
excesses inevitably lead. 

To preserve, in the face of these revolutions, the 
ironic impassivity of a Renan, Goethe would have had 
to be a Renan himself, a man who essayed every- 
thing, but retained nothing. Goethe, however, was 
Goethe, and what he had he held; he left nothing to 
the changes and chances of life. A man of peace, he 
was always armed. 

He is often compared to Phoebus Apollo, a romantic 
aspect of him immortalized in the fine bust by Martin 
Gottlob Klauer, the sculptor; there are certain traits 
in the life and character of the god which he exhibits 
in a marked degree. He shows us the god in exile; the 
god in solitude; the god who fights the dragon but who 
is too proud to proclaim his struggles and the dangers 
he has faced ; the god who fights alone and who alone, 
as day succeeds day, ascends the path which leads 
to the great light. 

He was Goethe, the man who rarely laughed, who 

.lib — V 

. r> 


= 31 

took life and art seriously, slow to forgive those who, 
in the lightness of their hearts, would trouble his sense 
of order and of harmony. 

If, then, the inoffensive Arnim caused him to empty 
the vials of his wrath, what of Beethoven? 

Goethe was not enough of a musician to see in 
Beethoven what we in our day perceive at once and 
what Bettina had so cleverly divined, the sovereign 
mastery (Herrlichkeit) of his will in matters of art, 
over the unfettered elements. He was, however, musi- 
cian enough, as was Tolstoi, to perceive the unchaining 
of these elements, and to be frightened by it. The rush- 
ing of the flood was in his ears, but not the quos ego 
of deliverance. Beethoven's dominance of the elements, 
even had he realized it, would not perhaps have reas- 
sured him on his own account. Let us say plainly that, 
on the edge of any abyss, Goethe felt giddy. He con- 
sidered Beethoven, gesticulating on the verge, as a 
lunatic, a sleep-walker who, sooner or later, would 
topple into the depths. He repulsed the hand of the 
madman outstretched to clutch him. . . . 

I had written these lines before reading the scene 
which now follows: it will show that my intuition was 

On the 12th of April, 1811, Beethoven wrote to 
Goethe. 40 His letter, touchingly modest, overflowed 

32 ^= 

with affection and respect. He told Goethe that he 
would send him shortly the music to Egmont* 1 and 
asked for his opinion: 

"Yes, even adverse criticism will benefit me and my 
art; I shall be as pleased to receive it as the highest 

It is worth noting that this humble great man, 
humble only with Goethe, proud towards all others, 
had already sent to Goethe through Bettina, in the 
course of the previous year, three admirable Lieder to 
words by Goethe, and that the latter had made no 
reply. Yet Beethoven, when he wrote again, uttered 
not a syllable of impatience or a hint of reproach. He 
repeated the offering with the same humility. 

The letter was brought to Weimar by Beethoven's 
secretary, Franz Oliva, a distinguished and likable 
young man, of whom Varnhagen and Rahel have 
spoken with much esteem. Goethe invited him to din- 
ner on May 4, 1811. After the meal, Oliva sat down at 
the piano and played Beethoven. What did Goethe do? 

While Oliva was playing, he walked impatiently up 
and down the music-room with Boisseree. The latter, 
who did not like Beethoven's works, either, amused 
himself by looking at Runge's paintings hanging on 
the walls, paintings which were indeed by a great 
artist whose charm and originality have recently won 

= 33 

renewed recognition. Goethe, much vexed, said to 

"What! You do not know that? Well, just look at 
it! It is enough to make one mad (Zum Rasend- 
werden) ! Beautiful and crazy, at the same time!" . . . 

"Yes, just like Beethoven's music which that fellow 
over there is playing (der da spielt) ." . . . 

"Exactly," growls Goethe. ' That' wants to grasp 
everything, and 'that' always loses itself in elementary 
things, and yet some details are infinitely beautiful. 42 
. . . Look!" — and here we do not know whether 
he was speaking of Runge or Beethoven, because the 
deprecating judgment included both — "What devilish 
work (Was fur Teufelszeug)\ . . . And here, again, 
what charm (Anmuth) and splendour (Herrlichkeit) 
this fellow (Kerl) has produced! But the poor devil 
could not keep it up, he is done with already (er ist 
schon hiri) . It was bound to happen. People who stand 
on seesaws 43 either perish or go crazy (verriickt) ; for 
that there is no pardon (da ist keine Gnade)." . . . 

For a few moments he remained silent. Then fol- 
lowed a fresh explosion: 

"You can hardly understand! For us old men it is 
maddening (Toll werderi) to have to see all around 
us a decaying world, a world returning to its elements 

34 ^= 

until — God knows when — things will change for the 
better!" . . . 

It would be difficult to disclose more effectively the 
innermost secret of his thought, the hidden tragedy. 
This subtle malevolence for Beethoven was really his 
vital instinct on the defence, the hatred of one who 
feels that what he holds dearest is threatened. 

However, he was a man of the world and knew 
what good manners demand, what was due to the 
advances of a distinguished composer who had shown 
him such great respect, what was due also to the in- 
sistence of Bettina, who in her letter of May 11th 44 
pleaded Beethoven's cause with such warmth. So on 
June 25 th he at last replied with a cordial politeness 
from Karlsbad. 45 He did justice to Bettina, and pointed 
out to Beethoven the value of such an advocate: 

"Bettina fully deserves the sympathy which you have 
shown the dear girl. She speaks of you with the great- 
est admiration and affection. She counts the hours she 
spent with you among the happiest of her life." 

He will be glad, he continues, to find on his return 
the promised Egmont score, and he thinks that he will 
be able to have it played at the performances of this 
drama the following winter. "Thus I hope to give 
great enjoyment both to myself and to your numerous 
admirers in our country." He hoped that Beethoven 






= 35 

would come to see him, as Oliva promised, and advised 
him to choose the season when the court and the musi- 
cal public would be in town. 

"You are sure to find in Weimar a reception worthy 
of your great merits. . . . But no one could be more 
interested in your visit than I, who beg to express my 
most cordial thanks for all the kindness which you 
have shown me." 

The letter was written then in as affectionate a tone 
as Goethe could use towards a musician whom he 
knew only by hearsay, 46 and whose art had no great 
attraction for him. It seems to me that this was indeed 
a great triumph for Bettina. 

When, at the end of January, 1812, he at last re- 
ceived the music to Egmont, he had it played to him 
on the piano by an amateur, Friedrich von Boyne- 
burg, 47 several times in the course of the same day. 
From this it would appear that he was making an effort 
to understand Beethoven; the hope seemed justified 
that, in spite of all that separated them, the two men 
would join hands in friendly alliance. 

But just at that moment a catastrophe occurred. 
Beethoven lost his little patroness at Weimar. During 

36 ^ 

the summer of 1811 Goethe suddenly broke off his 
relations with Bettina. The Arnims were shown the 

And at that fatal hour an evil chance brought Goethe 
and Beethoven face to face. 




Goethe's break with Bettina in September, 1811, was 
like a thunderclap out of a cloudless sky. But the storm 
had been gathering for a whole year, since Bettina's 
visit to Beethoven, and the rebellious enthusiasm which 
she consequently displayed. 

The newly- wedded Arnims had come to Weimar for 
their honeymoon. At first everything went smoothly. 
They were to have stayed for a week, and Christiana's 
jealousy was smoothed by her assumption that "Be- 
dina," 48 now happily married, was no longer dan- 
gerous. The young couple were affectionately received; 
they were at Goethe's house morning, noon, and 
night; they never left him. The first week's stay was 
followed by a second, then by a third. The state of 
Bettina's health justified, it is true, the extension of 



their visit, but not in the eyes of Goethe, with whose 
work it interfered, nor in those of the Frau Geheimrat 
("Mrs. Privy Councillor"), who, to her bitter disap- 
pointment, soon discovered that Bettina's marriage 
made no difference in her spiritual flirtation with the 
Geheimrat.* 9 The two women were certainly not born 
to understand, or even to tolerate, one another; the 
worthy fat Christiana, so simple and so vulgar (with 
age and good living she became redder and fatter, 
more and more vulgar), and Bettina, delicate and 
difficult, with her sentimental fancies and her never- 
ending "ideas." Both had ready, lively and uncompro- 
mising tongues: both were up in arms in the presence 
of the man whom both, for different reasons, consid- 
ered their property. They met every day, smiled at each 
other, and kissed . . . they would much rather have 
bitten each other! The Arnims, like everyone else in 
Weimar society, sympathized discreetly with the hen- 
pecked great man. Christiana, on the other hand, in- 
cited Goethe against the guests who took advantage of 
him. The storm broke suddenly while the two women 
were visiting a picture-gallery, and a real tornado it 
was. Bettina knew something of art and exercised her 
wit at the expense of the daubs which were shown. 
The organizer of the exhibition was the Hojrat Hein- 
rich Meyer, an old friend of Goethe's family, whose 

= 41 

taste, like that of Zelter and all the old habitues of the 
house, was somewhat mildewed. Christiana, therefore, 
took the offence as a personal affront; unable to meet 
Bettina, who excelled in ironical humour, on her own 
ground, the apoplectic lady gave vent to her accumu- 
lated wrath in screams and gesticulations. Bettina was 
accustomed to adorn her impudent little nose with a 
lorgnette or with glasses; they were torn from her, 
thrown to the ground and smashed. In the hearing of a 
curious crowd, attracted by her cries, the offended wife 
forbade her rival, who was struck dumb with surprise, 
ever to set foot again in their house. It was a public 
scandal. The whole town eagerly supported Bettina. 
So good an opportunity of attacking Christiana and 
Goethe could not be missed, for the bourgeois morality 
of Weimar had never forgiven their scandalous mar- 
riage. Goethe had necessarily to take sides with his 
wife, and closed his door to the Arnims. 50 

At heart, he did not regret it. Their departure meant 
the end of a romantic folly. Henceforth he would have 
peace, peace in the company of Zelter, Riemer, Meyer, 
and others like them, peace and the old order of things. 
Arnim, writing to Grimm at the end of September, 

"You can hardly imagine the incredible surround- 
ings in which he lives, separated from the rest of soci- 

42 = 

ety by his wife. And how he fears everything novel in 
art, everything which is not well ordered (Unord- 
nung) . It is almost laughable. He will say of anything 
new: "Yes, it is a very good joke (recht gute Spasse), 
but I am no longer interested, (aber sie gehen mich 
nicht mehr an). It almost seems as if the writing of his 
biography (at which he had been working for a year) 
has suddenly aged him, and his way of thinking." 

But the astounding adaptability of Goethe's genius 
enabled him to recapture the spirit of his lost youth; 
we find in the Westostlicher Divan a springtime of ex- 
uberant passion, and a dazzling flight of fancy in the 
last Faust and the immortal song of the watcher, 
Lynceus, whose "happy eyes" are ever open. 51 

But a period of sheer despondency and hopelessness 
preceded each of these revivals. 

He who knew himself so well needed complete isola- 
tion in such moments. And, indeed, he found this 
isolation, and enjoyed it to the full, in the honest medi- 
ocrity of his faithful famuli, and in his good wife's 
absence of intellect; a housewife all smiles, bright, 
clean, but how vulgar! Nevertheless, this comfort and 
sense of ease were dearly bought. Those who persist 
in seeing in him "the supreme artist of life" are quite 
unaware of the hidden misery of his domestic life; 
they have no idea of all the compromises and the af- 

Zu^ LU fa £$C fc?&~f~ -— 

•a*-*»— *t^- 


= 43 
fronts which he must endure, of the bitter thoughts 
which he must hide, and, when things become unbear- 
able, of his flights from home, lasting often for 
months. . . . No, he was a "supreme artist" only in 
his art; his life, seen at close range, inspires us not so 
much with admiration as with pity/ 


So Bettina, in spite of her regrets, her constant love, 
and her efforts to make peace with Goethe and to for- 
get the quarrel, was exiled from the circle of friends 
in Weimar. For six long years all correspondence 
ceased between her and her idol. 53 Even when they 
began to write to each other again, Bettina never re- 
captured the good graces of the sorely vexed "Olym- 
pian." Beethoven no longer had an advocate to plead 
his cause with Goethe. 

And just at that moment the two were to meet; fate 
unexpectedly decreed that they should come together. 

In July, 1812, while Goethe was at Karlsbad, he 
received a letter from his grand duke asking him to 
come at once to Teplitz, where the young Empress 
of Austria 54 wished to meet him. Goethe went to 
Teplitz; Beethoven had already been there for a week. 
It was not to see him that Goethe went there, but, 
being in the same town, he remembered, no doubt, the 

44 ^^ 

striking picture which Bettina had drawn of Bee- 
thoven, and the latter's ardent desire to meet him. His 
mind misgave him, but the inquisitive eagerness of the 
expert in human character won the day. 

Teplitz was then full of emperors and empresses, 
gorgeous archdukes and court ladies. 55 Beethoven, how- 
ever, was not one of those who were impressed by their 
dazzling plumage. He wrote in his grumbling way: 
"There are few men, and among those few, none of 
outstanding merit; I am alone, quite alone." 56 

It was then that he wrote to a little eight-year-old 
girl the exquisite letter in which we find the famous 
passage: "I can admit no other sign of superiority than 
a good heart." 57 

On the same day, in a letter to his publishers, he 
suddenly exclaims, in the midst of business matters, 
"Goethe is here." 58 

We feel how stirred he was by his presence. 

Goethe acted in noble fashion. He was the first to 
call (Sunday, July 19th). And he, too, like Bettina 
and so many others was conquered at first sight. On 
the same day he wrote to his wife: 

"Zusammengejasster,™ energischer, inniger, habe ich 
noch kelnen Kiinstler gesehen" ("Never before have I 
met an artist of more powerful concentration, more 
energy or deeper sincerity"). 00 

= 45 

This is saying a great deal. During his whole life 
Goethe had never honoured any other man by such a 
testimony of superiority. 

How wonderful was his insight, how torrential his 
energy, how superhuman his power of concentration, 
how fathomless the depth of his inmost feeling! 
Goethe, surveying the world of men, sees more freely, 
more accurately, more deeply than he understands; in 
one piercing glance he has grasped the essentials in 
Beethoven's genius and unique personality. 

That Goethe was greatly impressed is shown by the 
fact that the next day, July 20th, they went out walking 
together. On the day after, the 21st, Goethe went to 
see Beethoven, in the evening. He called again on 
Thursday, the 23rd, and Beethoven played to him at 
the piano. 

Four days later, on the 27th, Beethoven left Teplitz 
for Karlsbad, where his medical adviser had sent him; 
Goethe was only there from the 8th to the 11th of Sep- 
tember. Did they meet? We do not know. On the 
12th Beethoven left Karlsbad again for Teplitz, to 
which Goethe did not return. It was the end. During 
their whole life the two men were never to meet again. 

What had happened? A generous impulse had 
drawn them together. The first few days revealed an 
undeniable attraction. . . . And then, silence. 


We find a clue in two letters connected with Bettina. 
Their authenticity has been questioned, 61 but in my 
opinion this truth is proved by circumstances which I 
shall describe later, and by two other letters, unfortu- 
nately only too authentic, one from Beethoven to Breit- 
kopf (August 9, 1812), and the other from Goethe 
to Zelter (September 9, 1812) — not to mention the 
gossip then current in Teplitz, which in itself is elo- 
quent enough. 

I shall try to look on these two men, and to describe 
them, as they were, with all their greatness and their 
pettiness. Defects are to be found even more in men of 
genius than in ordinary men: both Beethoven and 
Goethe had a full share of them. 

At first, as I have said, Goethe was the more gener- 
ous of the two. He held out his hand to Beethoven. 
He was as cordial as he could well be, considering that 
he was naturally inclined to stiffness, except in his art 
and with his bosom friends. Beethoven did not disap- 
point him, nor did the next day's impression contradict 
the first. But Beethoven seems to have been less favour- 
ably impressed by Goethe. The poet, of whom he had 
dreamed since childhood, whom he had likened to an 
eagle flying with mighty wings in the teeth of the blast, 
proved to be a Geheimrat, much concerned with eti- 
quette, and profoundly respectful of rank; he was a 


= 47 
society man, very polite, stiff to the last degree, who 
always watched himself with a painful care lest he 
should unbend; who, after having heard Beethoven 
play (and we know what torrential floods his improv- 
isations were) , told him very courteously that he had 
played "most charmingly" ( rf £r spielte kostlzcb")* 2 

No doubt, Goethe, who was quite at a loss to express 
his appreciation of music, complimented the musician 
on his technique and on his clear-cut playing, with the 
air of one deeply impressed. But the aesthetic, the rea- 
soned judgment which Beethoven looked for from a 
man like Goethe, was not forthcoming because Goethe 
had, in fact, none to offer; he did not understand. . . . 

Beethoven exploded. . . . 

Bettina describes the scene. She had not been there, 
but afterwards Beethoven ran hot foot, boiling with 
rage, to tell her of it. She, no doubt, succeeded in pour- 
ing oil on the fire. 

Bettina had arrived in Teplitz on the evening of 
July 23rd with her husband and her sister, Mme. de 
Savigny. She did not know that she would find Goethe 
and Beethoven there. This meeting between the two, 
which she had so ardently desired, for which she had 
worked so tenaciously, had at last taken place. And, to 
her bitter disappointment, she was shut out. Goethe 
avoided her, all the more carefully because Christiana 

48 ^^ 

was watching him from afar. 68 No doubt Bettina had 
told the "Bacchus of music," as she nicknamed Bee- 
thoven, that she felt forsaken, like an Ariadne; and it 
is clear that Beethoven, very sensible of her charms 
and her faithful friendship, had taken her side.* 4 There 
was no longer any reason to check the irritation which 
the evening with Goethe had roused in him; he ex- 
pressed himself therefore without restraint. 

Here is the extraordinary scene, written, or spoken, 
if you will, in the most genuine Beethoven style, in 
which the two great men appear to us in the most 
unexpected postures. For it was Goethe whose eyes 
filled with tears while Beethoven lectured him sharply 
on his sentimentality. 

"He finished playing," wrote Bettina. "When he saw 
that Goethe was deeply moved, he said: 'Ah, sir, I 
had not expected that from you. . . . Long ago I gave 
a concert in Berlin. I had worked hard, and thought 
that I had done well. I expected a success, but when I 
had expended all my energy there was not the slightest 
sign of approval! ... It was very painful, indeed, 
and I could not understand it. But I soon found the 
clue to the secret: The Berlin public was fein gebildet 
(fashionably cultured) ; in token of appreciation they 
waved their tear-sodden handkerchiefs at me. I saw 
that I had a "romantic," 65 not an artistic, audience. . . . 


But coming from you, Goethe, I do not like it. When 
your poems reach my brain I am filled with pride so 
intense that I long to climb to the height of your 
grandeur. No doubt, I was unable to rise to such a 
height . . . otherwise enthusiasm, in you, would have 
found a different mode of expression. Yet you your- 
self must know how stimulating it is to gain the ap- 
plause of those possessed of understanding! If you do 
not recognize me, if you do not reckon me as your 
equal, who will? To what beggarly mob (Bettelpack) 
must I play to find understanding?' " . . * 

This was the first lesson he gave Goethe. What man 
had ever spoken to him before in such terms? . . . 
Bettina described Goethe's embarrassment, "for he 
knew perfectly well that Beethoven was right." 8T 

From that moment, Beethoven was ill-disposed to- 
wards Goethe; even the smallest incident was not 
allowed to pass without comment. 

They went out together, Beethoven taking Goethe's 
arm. In the streets of Teplitz and in the country lanes 
they often met aristocratic strollers. Goethe would bow 
ceremoniously, and this annoyed Beethoven; when he 
spoke of the court, of the empress, Goethe used 
"solemnly humble (jeierlich bescheideri) expres- 

sions." 68 

"What are you up to?" ("£/ was!") growled Bee- 

50 = 

thoven. "You shouldn't do that. It is not right. You 
should throw boldly in their faces what you have in 
you, otherwise they will pay no attention. There is not 
a single princess who will recognize the genius of 
Tasso except from motives of vanity. That is not the 
way I treat them. When I was giving music lessons to 
the archduke, he once let me wait in the anteroom. So 
I rapped his knuckles, and when he asked why I was 
so impatient, I told him that I had wasted my time in 
his anteroom and had no patience left. After that he 
never kept me waiting. I would have made him feel 
the folly and stupidity of such bad manners (Viehig- 
keit). I told him: 'You may pin an order to anyone's 
breast; he will not be a fig the better for it. You can 
bestow the title of Hojrat or Geheimrat, but you will 
never make a Goethe, or a Beethoven, either. You must 
learn to appreciate, therefore, what you yourself are 
unable to create. It will be good for you (Das ist Ihnen 
gesundy '." . . . 

That was the second lesson. We may imagine the 
frown with which Goethe, filled with respect for 
hierarchies and the social order, received it. 

At this moment the empress, the dukes, and their 
suites came in sight, walking towards them. Beethoven 
said to Goethe: 

= 51 

"Let us walk on, arm in arm. They will have to get 
out of our way, not we out of theirs!" 

Goethe did not approve of this, Bettina continues. 
The scene which she describes is well known. He broke 
away from Beethoven, and stood at the side of the 
road, hat in hand. Beethoven, swinging his arms, 
charged right through the midst of the princes, like a 
bull, merely touching his hat. They politely made room 
for him, and all greeted him in friendly fashion. When 
he had passed through them, Beethoven stopped and 
waited for Goethe, who was still bowing ceremoni- 
ously. Then he said to him: 

"I have waited for you because I honour and esteem 
you, but you have honoured those people far too 
much." 69 

That was the third lesson, this time a practical one. 
It was a case of action as well as words. But now the 
measure was brimming over. The reproach may have 
been quite justified, but a man like Goethe could not 
allow his ears to be pulled like a schoolboy's! 

Did Beethoven, we wonder, realize, even faintly, 
how many hard trials, bitter experiences, and dearly 
bought lessons were at the bottom of Goethe's social 
constraint and his tame acceptance of the order of 
things? Even if Beethoven were right, his manner of 
expressing his views would be intolerable! 

52 ^^ 

Goethe wrote to Zelter (September 2, 1812): 
"I have made Beethoven's acquaintance. His talent 
amazes me but, unfortunately, he has no self-control 
whatever. He is, no doubt, quite right in finding the 
world detestable, but by behaving as he does he really 
does not make it any more pleasant for himself or for 
others. We must forgive him a great deal, for his hear- 
ing is getting very bad; this interferes perhaps less with 
his musical than with his social side. He is naturally 
laconic, and he is becoming still more so as a result of 
his deafness." 

Goethe's tone is very restrained. He could not have 
said less against Beethoven, and we must acknowledge 
his sense of justice/ Note his admission: "He is, no 
doubt, quite right in rinding the world detestable." 

Here again is Goethe's carefully repressed pessi- 
mism. Is there anyone who has deciphered Goethe's 
inner self? . . . 

Who can have detected, under the poetic laurels 
heaped upon him, under the features of the gloomy 
Apollo which he wore, the bitter lines of his mouth, 
the marks of disappointment and disillusion, and the 
weaknesses so desperately concealed? This man de- 
tested emotion and abhorred the sight of disease and 
death; 71 the fissures in the social structure and in his 
own "ego," the possession by evil spirits — a constant 

= 53 

obsession of his — caused him the utmost alarm; it was 
because he found them all within himself. Only his 
wisdom and self-control could erect the dikes which 
would save him from drowning. 72 Goethe, the monarch 
of life, knew only too well on what fragile foundations 
his empire rested, and what the building of it had cost 
him. Like the master builder in the old legend, he had 
walled into the heart of the structure many a woman's 
body! What a price did he pay, not for his egoistic 
peace of mind (as the vulgar call it, who cannot rise 
to such heights), but for the serenity of his work and 
its accomplishment. No doubt, he is not so robust, not 
so roughly hewn, not so virile as Beethoven. Bee- 
thoven's was one long fight; every step cost him dear; 
he was wounded again and again; he never wavered, 
but rushed, breast forward, straight upon the enemy. 
Goethe never fought, never argued. Pride and weak- 
ness both forbade a hand-to-hand encounter. He did 
not commit himself with the adversaries whom he de- 
spised nor, more dangerous still, with those whom he 
loved. He had but one resource, only one, always the 
same; when he met an obstacle, he fled, fled without 
even looking back. He effaced the recollection of the 
encounter from his sight and his mind. 73 His mental ex- 
istence was a perpetual conquest, his life among men a 
constant flight. He stood aside and remained silent. . . . 

54 ^^ 

But Beethoven would never realize this. Who did, in 
fact? Of all men, Beethoven would be the last to under- 
stand him. 

After this meeting, Beethoven did not mince matters. 
He was certainly much less restrained than Goethe. 

"Goethe is much too fond of the court atmosphere, 74 
far fonder than is compatible with the dignity of a 
poet {Goethe behagt die Hofluft zu sehr. Mehr als es 
einem Dichter ziemt). If poets, who should be the 
foremost teachers (Lehrer} of a nation, can forget 
everything for dross such as this, let us never again 
refer to the foibles of musicians." 75 

He wrote this to his publishers. It was rash enough 
on his part to confide such impressions to strangers, 
but he did not leave it at that. Beethoven had one great 
weakness; when he had said something unpleasant to 
another, he was never content to let the matter rest 
there; he must publish it to the world at large. 

After "giving Goethe a good talking-to" he hurried 
to the Arnims to tell them the "joke," for that was all 
it was — to him. "He was as pleased as a little boy at 
having 'teased' Goethe in this way." 76 We can guess 
whether the Arnims kept the "joke" to themselves! 
Their quarrel with Goethe had made them more in- 
tolerant of his weaknesses, and his abject attitude 

•</,//. ////./A. :/.,;.■ J. ■■, I. .../.,/.-..■ , 

= 55 

towards the court displeased them; so they gave a lively 
account of it in their letters from Teplitz. 77 

It would not have mattered so much if Beethoven 
had restricted his gossip to Bettina's circle and to his 
own intimate friends. But he took the story with him 
wherever he went. The jeweller, Joseph Turck of 
Vienna, who during the season had a shop in Teplitz, 
told the following tale of Beethoven's joke with 
Goethe to all and sundry. While Goethe and Bee- 
thoven were walking out together, greeted at every 
step, Goethe said, rather pointedly, that he was tired 
of this constant bowing. Beethoven slyly remarked: 
"Don't be annoyed, Excellency. Perhaps they are bow- 
ing to me!" 

We can imagine his hearty laugh, the laugh of a 
boy who has never grown up, his delight at having 
made a joke at His Excellency's expense. And, having 
had his laugh, he forgot the matter. . . . 

He forgot it, but the joke went the rounds and 
returned to Goethe and Goethe did not laugh, nor did 
his devoted followers. . . . 78 The previous year Bee- 
thoven had formed a close friendship in Teplitz with 
the young Lieutenant Varnhagen von Ense and his 
"passion" Rahel, whose beautiful face recalled one 
who was dear to him. 79 On the German Olympus, 
where Bettina played the part of a daring little Hebe, 

56 ^= 

sitting on his knees and drinking from Jupiter's cup 
like a honey bee, Rahel was Minerva, sprung from 
the god's head, standing on guard at the foot of the 
throne, ever watchful against possible familiarities. 
From the moment when Beethoven had dared to attack 
their god's prestige, Rahel and Varnhagen knew Bee- 
thoven no longer. Rahel never mentions him again in 
her diary/ 


Silence. It is Goethe's deadly weapon, his mighty 
arm. He had given his Minerva lessons in this. He 
himself, too, was silent henceforth, and for many years 
never mentioned Beethoven. In 1813 Zelter, who had 
at last discovered the Overture to Egmont, spoke to 
Goethe of it. 81 Goethe made no reply. 82 Zelter, though 
eventually he found his "road to Damascus" 83 was not 
the man to exact from Goethe an admiration which was 
not in him. 

One person only could hope to do this, by the right 
of her beauty and her love — Marianna von Willemer, 84 
the Zuleika of the Divan. When her old lover sent her 
his Lieder from the Divan, set to music by some undis- 
tinguished composer, she had the courage to say, "Yes, 
no doubt it is quite nice, but . . . 

". . . if I am to be quite frank, I should like Bee- 

= 57 

thoven to write the melodies to these magnificent 
poems: he would understand them fully; nobody else 
could (Sonst niemand) ! I felt that very strongly last 
winter, when I heard the music to Egmont; it is heav- 
enly {himmlisch) ; he has absolutely grasped your 
meaning. It can almost be said that one and the same 
spirit has inspired (beseelt) your words and given life 
to (Jbelebt) his music. . . ." 85 

Goethe replied 86 with his accustomed intelligence 
and amiability, that more often than not the music writ- 
ten to Lieder is misleading; the poet is rarely under- 
stood, and only the composer's mood (Stimmung) is 

"However," he adds, "I have also found many valu- 
able works, in which I am clearly reflected (vielmal 
abges pie gelt) ; but the reflection is reduced or enlarged 
and is rarely quite true to life. In this respect Bee- 
thoven has accomplished miracles (Beethoven hat 
darin W under gethan)." 

The praise is ambiguous. Goethe appears to see him- 
self in Beethoven as if in a magnifying or distorting 

Marianna, however, did not allow the matter to rest. 
A year later she returned to the charge. Speaking of 
the return of spring she wrote: 

"If you would feel the new-born spring even more 

58 ^= 

intensely, ask some one with a beautiful soft voice to 
sing you Beethoven's Lieder an die feme Geliebte (To 
the beloved distant). This music seems to me un- 
surpassable; the only other music to which it can be 
compared is that to Egmont. . . . But it must be sung 
simply and with feeling, and must be very well played. 
How I should like to know that it has given you pleas- 
ure and what you think of it." 

We shall never know what he thought of it. But 
I like to think that the more conciliatory attitude and 
even the respect which Goethe showed for the name of 
Beethoven in 1820 and 1821 was due to this noble 
woman. It is true that he did not accept his art, but he 
no longer dismissed it with a word of contempt. He 
even made an effort, brief and not very serious, it is 
true, to understand him, and for this we must give him 

When young Johann Christian Lobe, who in spite 
of bashfulness had the courage of his convictions, 
dared to point out to him very respectfully how feeble 
and "antiquiert" (fossilized) Zelter's music was, and 
that the younger generation preferred the music of 
Beethoven and Weber, Goethe asked him to give his 
reasons, which Lobe did, very intelligently. 87 

"In Zelter's Lieder" he said, "the musical accom- 
paniment is merely a harmonic and rhythmic filling-in. 

V:; ■■*■ 



- -11 




= 59 

Modern composers have given it the dignity of an 
auxiliary expression (Mitsprache) of the sentiment. 
If Goethe were to have only the bass and the accom- 
paniment of one of Zelter's Lieder played to him, with- 
out the melody, he would find it difficult to discover 
the least connection between it and the sentiment. 
On the other hand, in the music of Beethoven and 
Weber the pulse-beats of the sentiment (Leben und 
Re gun g des Gefiihls) can be clearly felt in the accom- 
paniment. And yet this is only the babbling (Lallen) 
of music's childhood. Music will one day reach a stage 
in which each note of the accompaniment will play an 
integral part in the expression of the sentiment." 

Here we find a prophecy of the task of Wagner's 
orchestra, a prophecy made in 1820! 

Goethe listened, silent and attentive, with bowed 
head. Then he went to the piano, opened it, and said: 
"Give me an example. If your deductions are correct, 
you should be able to prove them." 

Lobe then played the accompaniment of a Lied by 
Zelter, and that of the Lied from Egmont, Drums and 
Fifes (Trommeln und Pfeifen). After that he played 
the two melodies. 

No doubt Goethe was not convinced and was only 
too ready to condemn the new tendencies on the 
strength of this isolated example, which may perhaps 

60 ^ 

have been played indifferently. 88 Still, it was a great 
deal for him to go even so far as to seek information. 
If practice did not interest him, theory did. 

Some months later, at the end of September, 1820, 
Goethe received F. Foerster, a musician from Berlin. 
Talking to him of the wrong interpretation which 
Prince Radziwill had given to a dialogue from Faust 
which the latter had set to music, Goethe pointed out 
the perfect appropriateness of Beethoven's music to 
Egmont's monologue in the prison scene. 89 He recited 
the monologue in a moving fashion and said: 

"Here I have added a note that the music is to play 
while the hero falls asleep. Beethoven understood me 
and interpreted most admirably my meaning (Bee- 
thoven ist mit bewunderungswerten Genie in meine 
Intentionen eingegangen)." 

A year later the poet Ludwig Rellstab, who was one 
of Beethoven's great admirers, 90 had a conversation 
with Goethe (the end of October, 1821): 

"We spoke a great deal of Beethoven, whom he 
knew personally. He was proud to possess some of his 
manuscripts. On this occasion he sent for Geheimrat 
Schmidt to play a sonata by Beethoven." 01 

We see, then, that Beethoven's music was by no 
means banned from his house as often has been stated. 
Here is a further proof. 

= 61 

At the beginning of November, 1821, a few days 
aftet Rellstab's first visit, Goethe invited a gathering of 
friends to listen to young Mendelssohn, then a boy of 
twelve. Rellstab gives us a vivid account of this event. 
After the child artist had played and improvised ad- 
mirably, Goethe fetched some of his precious auto- 
graph manuscripts. 

"Now, look at this, my boy! This will beat you." 
And he placed on the piano the manuscript of a Lied 
by Beethoven. 92 The writing was almost illegible! 
Mendelssohn burst into laughter. 

Said Goethe, "Guess who wrote that." 

And Zelter, unpleasant as usual, replied: "Beethoven. 
He always writes as if he used a broomstick for a pen." 

On hearing this, young Felix was struck silent with 
awe. It was a sudden seriousness; it was more; it was 
"a solemn marvelling" (heiliges Stauneri) ; his eyes 
were fixed, riveted. . . . Gradually an expression of 
"joyous wonder illumined his face, as little by little 
he unravelled from the crabbed writing the lofty 
melody, like the sun rising in splendour." Goethe's 
eyes, radiant with joy (Jreudestrahlend) never left his 
face. So impatient was he that he did not give him time 
to collect his thoughts: 

"You see, you see, if I hadn't told you, you would 
have been caught. . . . Come now, try it." 

62 ^^ 

Felix began to play hesitatingly; he stopped, cor- 
rected his mistakes, discussing them aloud, played to 
the end, then played the piece again, this time right 
through without interruption. During the whole eve- 
ning Goethe was overjoyed, and never ceased to discuss 
the feat with his guests. 

This shows how exaggerated has been the supposed 
ostracism of Beethoven's music in the house at 
Weimar. Goethe thought so little of his estrangement 
with Beethoven that when, in 1822, the young French 
violinist Alexandre Boucher, fearing that Beethoven 
would not consent to receive him in spite of his letters 
of introduction, sought Goethe's assistance in the 
matter, the latter gave him a note to Beethoven, which 
at once opened to him the doors of the great com- 
poser's house (April 29, 1822 ). 93 

How then are we to explain Goethe's extraordinary 
silence when Beethoven, in 1823, unwell and worried 
by lack of money, wrote him a letter in the humblest 
terms (February 8th) asking him to speak on his be- 
half to the Grand Duke of Weimar, and beg him to 
subscribe for the publication of his Missa Solemms? 
On reading this entreaty we feel a sense of shame, not 
so much for the writer, as for the recipient; it is painful 
to see a great man humiliate himself. 

What a moving effort this was, to interest Goethe in 

= 63 

his humble domestic life, and in his sixteen-year-old 
nephew, whose knowledge of Greek he proudly 
praised ("But it is very expensive to educate a boy"). 
What respectful affection he expressed for Goethe, 
what vivid recollections of "the happy hours spent in 
his company," what "Adoration, love, and high es- 
teem" ("Verehrung, Liebe, und Hochachtung"), which 
the awkward wording makes even more touching, and, 
above all, what fear that the expression of this affection 
and the dedication to Goethe of the two great works 
Meeresstille, and Gliickliche Fahrt?* might give the im- 
pression of having been prompted by mercenary rea- 
sons. It seems as if no generously-minded man could 
even for a single day have left the sting of suffering 
to rankle in a noble and confiding heart. One would 
have thought that even if Goethe had no interest what- 
ever in a Missa Solemms, he would have opened his 
arms to Beethoven, saying: 

"I thank you for having come to me for help. Make 
no apologies. If you humble yourself before me, it is I 
whom am humbled." 

Goethe never replied. For this his enemies find a 
very convenient explanation. They say that he was "un- 
kind"; 05 his admirers in their embarrassment avoid the 
question, and state that his health was very poor. 

And, indeed, about the month of February, 1823, 

64 ^= 

Goethe became seriously ill; but let us enquire into the 
circumstances more closely. 

Beethoven's letter arrived in Weimar on February 
15th. Goethe had been feeling unwell since the 13th. 
By the 18th he was very ill, even dangerously so. As 
was always the case with Goethe, any illness came on 
very suddenly and violently, but usually did not last 
long. For eight days and eight nights he never left his 
armchair; he was feverish and delirious. His two medi- 
cal advisers were very concerned, and he himself told 
them: "You will not be able to save me. Death is wait- 
ing for me; death is lurking at every corner. I am lost." 
Nevertheless, he struggled on. He showed on the tenth 
day that he was recovering by inveighing furiously 
against his doctors, who had forbidden him a certain 
beverage which he wanted. "If I am to die, I want to 
die in my own way." He had his drink and felt better. 
Before the end of the month he was already speaking 
of his illness as if it were a matter of ancient history, 
and he soon took up his old life — and how vehemently! 

Goethe was then seventy-five. He fell in love with a 
girl of nineteen, Ulrike von Levetzow. He spent the 
months of June and July with her, at Marienbad; this 
love affair upset him as if he had been a young man; 
for no reason whatever, he would weep; music reduced 
him to tears. One month of separation was more than 


= 65 

he could endure. In September he met the Levetzows 
again in Karlsbad, and the old man danced with the 
girls. Do not let us accuse him of senility. The pas- 
sionate, the great, the magnificent Elegie which his tor- 
ments inspired is a glorious work; it possesses the over- 
whelming passion, displayed in Werther, and the 
plenitude of art which distinguishes the great works of 
his maturity. He lived in a tempest, and scattered the 
tempest about him. There were some very unpleasant 
scenes at home; his son became furious when he heard 
that the old man intended to marry again. When he 
asked for the hand of Ulrike her parents politely dis- 
suaded him. Goethe was deeply distressed. Towards 
the end of the year he was again stricken by serious 
illness. In his house nobody looked after him. Zelter, 
who came unexpectedly to see him, was horrified 
when he saw how abandoned was his old friend. The 
two old men fell into each other's arms and opened 
their hearts to each other. Goethe confessed how un- 
happy he was. His last dream of joy was broken; hence- 
forth he would have to live a life of renunciation in 
deadly loneliness. "If Goethe had died then," writes 
Emil Ludwig, "he would have died a vanquished 

Goethe lived, thank God, and soon he cut, as it were, 

66 ^= 

in the glacier of his grief steps by which he rose to 
summits which hitherto he had never attained. 

We see, however, that if his illness in February was 
an inadequate reason for disregarding Beethoven's 
letter, the upsetting events of the year, and the fevered 
weakness of his disordered heart, explain how, in the 
midst of all this storm and turmoil, Beethoven's request 
was overlooked. It may, of course, be contended that 
this passionate egoism lacked the resources of love and 
charity which would have provided him with a noble 
diversion from his own sufferings, in alleviating those 
of others. But when we realize that this boundless 
egoism, the mirror of the universe, was the guiding 
principle of a world-wide intelligence, of a spirit full 
of light and beauty, we no longer dare to condemn it. 
As well condemn the lordly indifference of the sun. 

My blame is reserved for Zelter, the faithful but 
timid friend. For mediocrity cannot claim the excuses 
which we make for genius. If mediocrity be not good 
and loyal, what else can be said for it? Zelter was all 
the more in duty bound to remind Goethe of Bee- 
thoven's request because he himself knew of Beetho- 
ven's letter and understood its pathetic appeal. Since 
he had met Beethoven in 1819 his feelings towards 
him had undergone a complete change. An excellent 
man, though unprepossessing, Zelter had been moved 

= 67 
to tears by Beethoven's physical disabilities and by his 
kindness. 80 From that time he showed him a brotherly 
devotion; he subscribed to the Missa Solemnis, and put 
his Singchor of 160 voices, which was then the best 
choral society in Germany, at Beethoven's disposal; 
henceforth he included regularly in his programs the 
works of the great composer whom he now compared 
to Michelangelo. 

And yet, so weak and cowardly is man, he was care- 
ful not to mention the Missa Solemnis to Goethe. And, 
when Beethoven died, Zelter did not dare to speak of 
him to Goethe, although in secret his soul saluted the 
shade of the demigod. It would appear that during the 
whole year the name of Beethoven was never men- 
tioned between them. 87 

How terrible, how inhuman is this silence, yet who 
can tell how often Goethe himself had laid the tomb- 
stone of silence upon death, burying thus his secret 
thoughts with the death of his nearest and dearest. At 
the age of sixty he said to Riemer: 88 

"Only those with the acutest sensibility can prove 
excessively hard and excessively cold. They must, as 
it were, don thick armour in order to ward off harsh 
assaults, and only too often does this armour weigh 
heavily upon them." 

To hide is, with Goethe, an instinctive method of 

68 = 

defence; the imperious call to concealment sometimes 
disguises his anxiety. At the same time his genial su- 
periority turns this instinct into the impulse which gave 
rise to his most moving lyric flights. The whole nature 
of the man was an instrument which he sacrificed in 
the service of art and thought. He thrust aside his sor- 
rows, his loves, and his fears. . . . Who, indeed, har- 
boured more sorrow, love, and fear than this Faust, so 
intrepid and restless, round whom the Satanic poodle* 
ran in magic circles. . . . The symbolic poodle who, 
in old age, never left the shadow of his steps? 

I have in my possession a beautiful letter from 
Goethe to Wilhelm von Humboldt, written on October 
22, 1826, a few months before Beethoven's death. 
Humboldt was trying to dissuade Goethe from his atti- 
tude of aloofness on the subject of Indian philosophy. 
Goethe answered: 

"I have nothing whatever against Indian thought, 
but I am afraid of it (aber ich furchte mich davor). 
It would involve my imagination in the pursuit of the 
formless and the misshapen (denn es zieht meine Ein- 
bildungskrajt ins Formlose und Difforme); I must 
guard myself more earnestly than ever against this 
(wovor ich mich mehr als jemals zu huten habe).' m 

* Translator's Note. — Romain Rolland refers here to Mephistopheles 
in Goethe's great poem, who first approaches Faust in the form of a poodle, 
running in circles round his victim and drawing closer and closer. 


Always and ever more keenly, as his life draws to 
its end, does he feel this secret attraction and the fear 
of the abyss. 

For Goethe, Beethoven was the abyss. 

The famous scene of which Mendelssohn has told us 
proves this. It shows us the old man's apprehension, 
and his desperate fight to keep behind bars the savage 
demons which, many years later, were to bring the aged 
Tolstoi low when he wrote the Kreutzer Sonata. 

It was in 1830, three years after Beethoven's death. 
"In the morning I had to play to him, for nearly an 
hour, music by the great composers in chronological 
order. . . . He was sitting in a dark corner like a 
Jupiter with his thunderbolts. From time to time light- 
ning flashes darted from his old eyes. He refused to 
let me mention Beethoven, but I told him that I could 
not help it, and played the first movement of the C 
Minor Symphony. This moved him strangely. At first 
he said: 'This does not cause any emotion, only aston- 
ishment (das bewegt aber gar nichts, das macht nur 
stauneri) ; it is superb!' For a while he continued to 
growl in this way. Then, after a long silence, he went 
on: 'It is stupendous, absolutely mad. It makes me al- 
most fear that the house will collapse. And supposing 
the whole of mankind played it at once! . . . 10 ° {Das 
ist sehr gross, ganz toll! Man mochte sich jurchten das 

70 ^= 

Haus fiele ein. Und wenn das nun alle die Menschen 
zusammen spielen!) . . . Later on, during dinner, he 
started growling again. . . ." 

The stroke had gone home. He should have admitted 
it, but he refused to do so. He was compelled to cheat, 
so that the ordered destiny of his thought might be 

The conclusion to which I have come, is this: Of the 
two men, the exalted and often wavering Beethoven- 
Dionysus and Goethe, the Olympian, it is Goethe who 
concealed the greater moral weakness. But only those 
possessing the strongest character recognize their own 
weakness and fix the boundaries of their spiritual do- 
minion. Beethoven's dominion was the boundless sky 
( Me in Reich ist in der Lujt) . Hence his extraordinary 
fascination and his generosity, hence also the dangers 
about him. The century of music which came after 
him fell a victim to them. Only Wagner was strong 
enough to take up and grasp the sceptre which the 
sorcerer apprentices* had allowed to fall to the 
ground. 101 

* Translator's Note. — Romain Rolland refers here to Der Zauber- 
lehrl'tng ("The sorcerer-apprentice"), a magnificent poem by Goethe. The 
theme is that an apprentice — I.e., one who is not a master of his profession, 
should refrain from attempting to do great things, otherwise disaster will 

= 71 

Beethoven, however, was never aware of the dangers 
which he let loose. Nor did he guess, let us hope, the 
existence of the secret dislike which separated him 
from the great man whom he venerated more than any 
other mortal. That he should have suffered from 
Goethe's obstinate silence and his failure to reply to 
his letters we can well understand. Yet Beethoven, so 
easily roused to anger, who would not tolerate from 
anyone, even were he one of the world's masters, the 
neglect of the consideration to which he was entitled, 
never showed any sign of resentment at Goethe's in- 
comprehensible attitude. Never once did he complain. 
In his Conversation Note-Book* of 1819 we read that 
once somebody in his presence attempted to speak dis- 
paragingly of Goethe: "Goethe should give up writ- 
ing; the fate which awaits singers who have grown old 
will overtake him, too." 

No doubt Beethoven must have interrupted him 
violently with words of protest, for the other person 
apologized and hastened to write, "He remains, never- 
theless, Germany's greatest poet." 102 

The days at Teplitz are not forgotten; but all that 
Beethoven remembers of them is the light; the shadows 
of the scene have all disappeared. The memory of 

* Translator's Note. — Beethoven was then completely deaf. His visitors 
wrote whatever they wished to say into his note-book. He would then 
answer aloud. 

72 ^= 

Goethe's weaknesses is gone; his own scoffing and 
teasing he has frankly forgotten. Of Goethe he remem- 
bers only his greatness and his kindness. 

"So you know the great Goethe?" he exclaimed in a 
conversation with Rochlitz (1822). He beat his breast, 
beaming with joy, "I know him, too; I met him in 
Karlsbad 103 God knows how long ago. I was not as 
deaf as I am today, but my hearing was even then very 
poor. How patient the great man was with me. You 
can hardly believe how happy it made me. I would 
have given my life for him ten times over." 

Thus each passed on his way without clear view of 
the other. Beethoven, whose love was the greater, could 
but wound his friend. Goethe, whose insight was the 
keener, never understood the one who was nearest to 
him, the great man who alone was his peer, who alone 
was worthy of his friendship and his love. 

"We all make mistakes, but everyone makes different 
mistakes," wrote the dying Beethoven on his bed of 
suffering, like old King Lear. 104 


GOETHE (1810) 


"Silence! It is Goethe's deadly weapon, his mighty 
arm." I wrote these words in 1927 in my essay on 
Goethe's attitude towards Beethoven, after their meet- 
ing in Teplitz — that is from the end of 1812 to Beetho- 
ven's death. 

Since then I have made a closer study of the subject, 
with a more intimate knowledge of Goethe's musical 
life during these fifteen years (1812-27). I have ven- 
tured further into the dark secrets of his silence. Here 
is the result of my latest researches. 

The outstanding discovery is this: 

During this period of fifteen years Goethe, at Wei- 
mar, had all the means of obtaining abundant infor- 
mation about Beethoven, about both the man and his 


76 ^= 

work. There is every good reason to believe that he did 
obtain it. 

From 1813 Goethe's constant companion was a close 
friend of his, Johann Heinrich Friedrich Schiitz, an 
inspector of Berka Spa, a three hours' journey from 
Weimar. Schiitz was an excellent pianist and organist. 
They often met and Schiitz played to him the works of 
German composers, hour after hour. It is true that he 
preferred Bach to any other, and that he inspired 
Goethe with the same devotion. But he also played 
Beethoven frequently. 

There was another intimate friend of Goethe's, who 
was entirely and singly devoted to Beethoven — the 
Secret Councillor of State (Geheimer Regierungsrat) 
Friedrich Schmidt. This amiable and worthy man was 
an enthusiastic apostle. He wrote sonnets, dedicated to 
Beethoven's works. He knew his sonatas by heart, and 
played Beethoven almost exclusively, probably, as 
Ferdinand Hiller tells us in his memoirs, "with more 
intelligence than technique." "This was perhaps not 
the best means of propaganda for the master," he 
writes: nevertheless, it is worth noticing that Goethe 
never showed any objection to listen to him. 

In 1817 there arrived in Weimar a musician of con- 
siderable reputation, who installed himself there per- 
manently as Kapellmeister, Johann Nepomuk Hum- 

mel. He was the most famous piano virtuoso of his time. 
Hummel, who was then fotty years old, had had the 
privilege of being Mozart's only pupil, and he was 
both a rival and friend of Beethoven's. They had met 
when very young, in 1787 as a matter of fact, when 
Hummel was nine years old, and Beethoven seven- 
teen. As virtuosi in Vienna, about the year 1802, they 
often joined in friendly rivalry; and Karl Czerny 
has handed down to us an account of these contests 
which divided society into opposite camps. Both were 
remarkable in improvisation, but their manner of play- 
ing differed greatly. Hummel was a master of good 
taste and elegance, and his execution was clear cut and 
clean: probably no one ever equalled him in the in- 
terpretation of Mozart's music. Beethoven, on the other 
hand, excelled in the play of his imagination, the energy 
of his rhythm, his ardour, and his control of the mighty 
impulses which he released. It is to the credit of the 
two virtuosi that their rivalry did not affect their 
friendship. It is true that occasionally some small mis- 
understanding occurred, when Beethoven would send 
Hummel one of those terrible letters of his, in which 
he poured a stream of invective on the head of his as- 
tonished friend, only to beg him, in the warmest terms, 
on the same evening or the next morning, to come and 
be friends again. 105 The good-humoured Hummel 

78 = 

never allowed these incidents to interfere with their 
friendship. From 1804 to 1811 he deputized for and 
later became the successor of, Haydn, in the house- 
hold of Prince Esterhazy at Eisenstadt. And when in 
1807 Beethoven came there for the performance of his 
Mass in C, and the prince exclaimed, "My dear Beetho- 
ven, what on earth have you concocted now?" Hummel 
could not hide a smile, thereby drawing upon himself 
the thunderbolts of wrath which Beethoven could not 
launch against the princely head. Schindler, a very 
worthy man, but possessing no sense of humour, con- 
cluded, quite mistakenly, that this incident led to a 
lasting estrangement. So far was this from being the 
case that in 1813-14 we find Hummel gallantly con- 
ducting the drums and cannon of his warlike friend's 
army in the Schlachtensymphonie (the Battle of Vit- 
torza), while Beethoven wrote him facetious Napo- 
leonic proclamations. Hummel continued to be the 
faithful friend, who immediately, on hearing of Bee- 
thoven's last illness, hurried from Weimar to Vienna, 
and remained at the bedside of the dying man. We 
shall find him there presently. . . . We see, then, that 
Beethoven could not have had a more illustrious advo- 
cate at Weimar than Hummel. We are told that the 
virtuosi of that time were not in the habit of playing 
any other compositions than their own; there were, 

= 79 

however, exceptions, and there is no doubt that Hum- 
mel proved, for society in Weimar, a veritable mine of 
Beethoven lore. It is therefore difficult to believe that 
he never spoke of Beethoven to Goethe, who met him 
frequently and was curiously influenced by Hummel's 
powers of musical fascination. 106 Goethe, in his wis- 
dom, always attached great importance to the judg- 
ment of the professional musician, and was thus bound 
to take note of the great appreciation which Hummel 
professed for Beethoven, even if he himself did not 
share it. 

Then Zelter, Goethe's Achates, went to Vienna dur- 
ing the summer of 1819: he met Beethoven on the way. 
In spite of his rugged exterior he was a kindly-hearted 
man, and Beethoven's physical sufferings affected him 
very deeply; the old friends fell into each other's arms. 
"... (Und ich habe kaum die Tranen verhalten kon- 
nen — I could hardly restrain my tears)." 107 

From this moment Zelter always showed kindness to 
the unfortunate man of genius, who displayed the 
deepest gratitude to him, a gratitude which was per- 
haps out of proportion to the actual value of the 
services rendered. 

Through Goethe's house there passed a continuous 
stream of distinguished visitors — musicians, men of 
taste, well-known critics, men personally acquainted 

80 ^= 

with Beethoven — who have left us interesting accounts 
of their conversation with him: Wenzel Tomaschek, 
who had set some of Goethe's poems to music; Rellstab, 
later the sponsor of the Moonlight Sonata; above all, 
Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, the foremost musical his- 
torian of the time and for thirty years Goethe's friend 
and correspondent, who has spoken so nobly of Bee- 
thoven, and to whom Beethoven confided, in 1822, his 
unbounded affection for Goethe. 108 

But there is more to tell, and I must resume the story 
of the year 1823, that year of tragedy, when Beethoven, 
harassed by ill-fortune, knocked vainly at Goethe's 
door; I have already quoted his humble appeal, which 
Goethe, a prey to both the desire of love and the fear 
of death, seemed to disregard. When I first pictured 
this scene, I did not sufficiently emphasize the pathetic 
character of these months of infinite sadness (Wehmut) 
when "all seemed lost" for Goethe, and when "he him- 
self was lost." 109 Goethe's heart was never more ac- 
cessible to music and to musical emotion than in this 
very year when he left Beethoven at his door; it was 
as if fate had ironically determined to render ridiculous 
the misunderstanding which made Goethe turn a deaf 
ear to his friend. 

His senile love for the nineteen-year-old little 
Ulrike was only one indication of the restlessness 

= 81 
which was then consuming Goethe. In Marienbad this 
restlessness came under music's influence. At no other 
period of his life did the sound of music overwhelm 
him to such a degree; he himself was at a loss to un- 
derstand it. Two great women artists thrilled the old 
man's heart far more than the colourless Ulrike. They 
were Anna Milder-Hauptmann — Beethoven's Leonora 
— whose singing of the simplest song moved Goethe to 
tears; 110 and even more, an enchanting Polish pianist, 
Marie Szymanowska, then thirty-three years of age. He 
dreamed for many months of this "ravishing, all-pow- 
erful mistress of tone" ("die zierliche Ton-All- 

But it needed not the art of Muses as fair as these 
to overcome him. Even an open-air concert given by the 
band of the local infantry regiment was enough to 
upset him. 111 This worried him, and he tried to find an 
explanation of his emotion; it almost seemed as if he 
were ashamed and afraid of it. 

His letter to Zelter, in which he told his old friend 
of his state of mind, sounds almost apologetic. . . . He 
maintained that for the last two years he had not heard 
any music — in this he was either wrong or trying 
to deceive himself. Suddenly music assailed him and 
released the winged messengers of recollections long 
forgotten. It was too much. . . . "I am convinced that, 

82 = 

if I were to go to a concert by your Singakademie I 
should have to leave the hall after the first bar. Ah, 
when I think," he continued, "of the happiness which I 
should derive from hearing every week an opera like 
Don Juan! I know now what sorrow it is to be deprived 
of a delight which lifts man out of himself, out of the 
world, to greater heights. How I need it, how splendid 
it would be if I were with you. You would heal my 
morbid sensitiveness (krankhaften Reizbarkeit), and 
little by little enable me to assimilate once more God's 
greatest revelation (die ganze Fulle der schonsten 
Offenbarung Gottes in mich aujzunehmeri) . Instead of 
this, I shall have to spend a winter empty of music and 
form (klang und formlosen Winter) and I am afraid 
of it (yor dem mir doch gewissermassen grant). . . ." 
This great man, now so old and immured in the cold 
walls of solitude, who can fail to be deeply moved at 
hearing his confession? . . . But what is it that iso- 
lates him ? And what strange fear is it that makes him 
dread the thought of leaving his prison? Germany was 
full of friends eager to see him. In Berlin his faithful 
friend Zelter was anxiously awaiting his coming; he 
had been waiting for twenty years past; and the whole 
of Berlin, the Court, the elite, and the crowds among 
whom Zelter's and Reichardt's Lieder had spread his 
fame and given rise to a loving veneration of his name, 

— fS 

= 83 

all were eagerly expecting him. But he never came; he 
was never to see Vienna. He is on the defensive . . . 
but against what? Is it happiness? Is it glory? Or is it 
the gaping crowd which he shuns? . . . How little 
self-assurance he has! But he knows what manner of 
man he is and we know what a masterpiece he carved 
out of his very being. He is wise and recognizes the 
abysses which he must avoid. 

So he returned to his winter quarters in Thuringia, 
frozen to the very heart. He complained that all that 
was left for him was to bury himself in his retreat and 
await shivering the return of summer, which would 
allow him to resume in Bohemia the only life worth 
living. . . . 

And just then suddenly there appeared on October 
24th the cjueen of the snows, the enchantress Szyma- 
nowska. 112 

There followed twelve days of pure delight, twelve 
days devoted to the most sacred emotions of beauty, of 
tenderness, and of music. The accents of almost re- 
ligious gratitude in which Goethe praised her to the 
skies, the charming words with which he bade his visi- 
tor farewell on the eve of her departure, are evidence 
of the profound joy which her presence and her in- 
spired playing had given him. . . , 113 

It has, however, not been sufficiently recognized that 


in these sacred feasts of art Beethoven occupied an 
important place. On October 27th a Beethoven trio was 
played at Goethe's house. On November 4th, in the 
great concert given at the Stadthaus in honour of 
Szymanowska, Beethoven figures twice on the program. 
The concert opened with the Fourth Symphony in B 
Flat, and after the interval his quintet, op. 16 for piano, 
oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon, was played. Thus 
Beethoven had the lion's share, and without mention- 
ing his name, Goethe confessed to Knebel that he was 
again "completely carried away by the whirlwind of 
sounds (da bin ich nun wieder in den Strudel der Tone 
hineingerissen)." Thus there had been opened to him 
a new world, the world of modern music which he 
had hitherto refused to accept — "durch Vermittelung 
eines Wesens, das Geniisse, die man immer ahndet und 
immer entbehrt, zu verwirklichen geschaffen ist 
(through the medium of one who has the gift of en- 
dowing with life those delights which we resent and 
of which we deprive ourselves)." 

The following incident shows how deep was the 
emotion in the old man's heart at this time. On the 
evening of November 5th Mme. Szymanowska came to 
bid him good-bye. Goethe kissed her without a word; 
his eyes dwelt upon her as she walked away. He turned 
to Councillor van Miiller and said: "I have much to 

= 85 
thank her for . . . she has given me back to myself 
(mich zuerst mir selbst wiedergegeberi)." 

He went to bed at an early hour, feeling worn out. 
The next morning he had a heart attack. He had vio- 
lent fits of coughing; he felt as if he were going to 
die. When Zelter arrived on November 24th it 
seemed to him a house of death that he entered; he 
was paralyzed with fear. For twenty days he remained 
closeted with his old friend who confided all his trou- 
bles to him. They spoke also of music. Zelter mentioned 
that Haydn was writing some "joyous" masses, and 
that when some one had expressed surprise at this new 
style of sacred music he had replied: "When I think 
of God I always feel so indescribably happy. ..." 
And tears, healing tears, again flowed over Goethe's 

On December 13th Zelter left, and again Goethe 
took up his life and its tasks. 

Thus we see how filled with tenderness, emotion, 
and melancholy was the Goethe of that time, how 
deeply music affected him. I was wrong, therefore, in 
saying, as I did, that during these tempestuous months 
the thought of Beethoven had altogether vanished. No, 
the spirit of Beethoven, too, had been heard amid the 
storm. . . . 

86 ^^ 

All the more extraordinary is it, therefore, that 
Goethe, after his recovery, never spoke of him. 

Just then death knocked at Beethoven's door. 

At the first news of the danger, Hummel, the Wei- 
mar Hoj kapellmeister and a cherished friend of 
Goethe, left to bid a last farewell to his great fellow 
artist, taking with him his wife and his young pupil, 
Ferdinand Hilier, for whom Goethe showed a fatherly 
affection. They arrived in time to find Beethoven still 
fully conscious and happy to see the old couple again. 
They embraced each other and they talked. Hummel 
and Hilier paid four visits (February 28, March 13, 
March 20, March 23, 1827 ). 114 Each time they found 
him weaker. The sun was setting. At the last visit the 
sufferer could no longer speak; his teeth were clenched 
in the supreme struggle. Frau Hummel bent over him 
and wiped the sweat from the dying man's brow. 
Beethoven's expression at this moment had a striking 
effect on young Hilier. Forty years later he wrote: "I 
shall never forget the look of gratitude in those broken 
eyes (sein gebrochenes Auge) as he turned them on 

Three days later Beethoven died. Hummel was pres- 
ent at the funeral. On April 9th he returned to Wei- 
mar, 115 and met Goethe again. . . . 

f 1 \ Y . 










^^k , 






v ; 


= 87 

Nothing. . . . Goethe asked no questions. . . . 
Goethe found nothing to say. . . , 116 

Nothing? Yes, he did say something — a year later. 
And it was all he ever said on this subject. 

In 1828, in his report on the Monatschrift der Gesell- 
schaft des vaterlandischen Museums in Bohmen, 
Goethe wrote, in stilted fashion: 

"Mention should be made of the 'Requiem' by To- 
maschek, to which we shall refer separately in greater 
detail, because it is one of the most recent creations of 
the famous composer; we should also make honourable 
mention of the religious service held in Prague on the 
occasion of Beethoven's death" ( fr 5o wie zugleich der 
fur Beethoven veranstalteten kirchlichen Totenjeier 
ehrend Erwahnung zu tun"). 

His pen had compelled him to write the name "Bee- 
thoven" . . . "ehrend Erwahnung! . . " 

And this is the single reference to Beethoven in the 
whole of Goethe's writings! 

""N/7 mirari." 

Whatever we may feel, let us do as Goethe did — 
let us try and understand. 

In all that we have noted not a trace of personal 
hostility is to be found. The thought of Beethoven, 
whose mind and person had for a moment fascinated 
him, no doubt distressed and troubled him; so Goethe 

88 ^= 

put it from his mind. It would, however, be utterly 
false to maintain that he ever showed the slightest 
dislike for him. 

There are other great musicians whom physically 
Goethe could not tolerate. Weber, for instance, whose 
last visit (July, 1825), just before his death, leaves us 
a terrible impression. Weber, already suffering from 
his last illness, was announced. He was kept waiting 
in the antechamber. Twice afterwards he was asked for 
his name, a name famous throughout Germany since 
the triumph of his opera Vreischutz in Berlin in 1821, 
and even in Weimar in 1822. Goethe had heard it 
in 1824, as well as Euryanthe. When at last he was 
admitted to Goethe's presence he found "a man of 
stone," ice-cold and stern, who spoke to him with a 
frigid politeness on matters of no moment. Not a word 
was said of his music. Weber left, deeply hurt, went 
to bed shaking with fever, remained in bed at his hotel 
for two days without anyone troubling about him, and 
left Weimar forever. 

This was a case of Goethe's dislike for the whole 
man with all his attributes. He disliked Weber's per- 
son, his leanness, his sickliness, his grotesque shape, his 
perpetual snuffling, his ugly spectacles; the whole 
wretched appearance of the man irritated the Olym- 
pian: he disliked his mind, the mind of the self- 

= 89 

appointed mouthpiece of the national and military 
instincts of the vulgar, which Goethe despised. He dis- 
liked his noisy, rowdy music — "A lot of noise for 
nothing," Goethe grumbled as he left the theatre after 
the second act of Oberon. Finally he disliked the man 
who set stupid poems to music; this was an unforgiv- 
able offence in Goethe's eyes, and we may add that 
on this last point Beethoven condemned Weber with 
equal severity. 

There is nothing of this kind in the case of Bee- 
thoven. Let us remember Goethe's feeling of respect 
and astonishment when he first met Beethoven (1812) : 

"Zusammengefasster, energischer, inniger habe ich 
noch keinen Kiinstler gesehen" 

Beethoven made a great impression on Goethe. But 
the latter feared him; it was apprehension of a claim 
to equality, a claim which he must set aside. 

Goethe was too noble to refuse to admit equality in 
others. For him it should have been rather a reason for 
seeking out Beethoven. 

Was it his music, then, that he disliked? 

In all our researches we have not found a single fact 
suggesting that Beethoven's music was not frequently 
performed in Weimar, either at concerts or at the 
theatre, or, for that matter, even at Goethe's own house. 
Under the very direction of Goethe performances of 

90 ^= 

Egmont were given at the Weimar Theatre, with Bee- 
thoven's incidental music. 117 And in 1816 he produced 
Fidelio. 118 Whether he liked this music or not, he re- 
spected the composer's artistic rights and independ- 
ence; he would never have hindered his triumphal 

Besides, Beethoven's greatness was already estab- 
lished. After 1815 it was an accomplished fact. The 
examples which I quoted in my first essay prove that 
in 1820 and 1821 Goethe himself expressed his esteem. 
Beethoven, as represented by Egmont, is certainly be- 
yond discussion. 

I may add that on no occasion did Goethe ever re- 
fuse, from mere prejudice, to listen to those who 
desired and were qualified to teach him something. His 
highly developed scientific mind imposed this upon 
him. He was not one of those poets who in idle pride 
despise the lessons of history. 119 As I shall show later, 
no other writer showed a greater and more sustained 
interest in art and particularly in the history of music. 
The comprehension of a work of art seemed to him 
impossible without a perception of its proper place in 
the chain of evolution of form and mind. 120 And in that 
chain of evolution Goethe's personal predilection did 
not react against this or that particular work. His in- 
telligence alone was concerned; it observed the facts, 

= 91 

deduced with lucidity the laws governing them, and 
accepted these laws with serenity. He never missed an 
opportunity of organizing in Weimar musical per- 
formances in historic cycles with commentaries and 
thus presented the finest examples of music of the 
different epochs. In 1818 Schutz, of Berka, played for 
him during three consecutive weeks, for three or four 
hours every day, German compositions for the piano 
from Handel and Bach to Beethoven. In 1830 
Mendelssohn, at his request, played for him for a 
fortnight all the classical composers from the begin- 
ning of the eighteenth century to the ri ' grossen neuen 
Technikern" ("the great modern technicians") of 
whom, as Goethe wrote to Zelter, he gave him "a suffi- 
cient idea" ^htnr etch end e Begrifje"). And there is no 
doubt that among these "great modern technicians" 
Beethoven had the place of honour. 121 

I feel convinced that Goethe did not deny him this 
place. I have said elsewhere that in all technical ques- 
tions concerning an art other than his own, Goethe was 
loyal enough to accept the judgment of those whom 
he recognized as more competent than himself. Now, 
about the year 1825 I fail to find any musician of im- 
portance in Goethe's circle — Rochlitz, Schutz, Mendel- 
ssohn, Lobe, Tomaschek, Rellstab, even Zelter — who 
did not recognize Beethoven's musical genius, what- 

92 = 

ever may have been the criticisms which one or another 
expressed of his work. 

What, then, is the conclusion? 

It is this, that Goethe admitted, recognized, even 
admired his greatness, but did not like it. 

That is the whole point. Can we blame him? No 
man can love to order. Goethe in his affection and his 
art was always sincere. 

His predilection in music we shall see later. It is a 
fine, one might even say an enormous, field. It extends 
from the popular Lied to the choral polyphony of the 
Italian sixteenth century, from Palestrina to Bach, 
from Don Juan to the Barber; the heroic oratorios of 
Handel were enthroned in the very centre of his af- 
fections side by side with the "Well-tempered Clav- 
ichord"; I know few poets of whom as much could 
be said. 

But there were two things which he did not like, 
two types of music, the colossal and the melancholy 
romantic. To be crushed or to be depressed was to him 
equally unendurable. 

A third matter, entirely physiological, influenced 
his judgment; his ear could not tolerate "too much 
noise." This was one of the reasons why he did not 
leave home during his last years, going to the theatre 
only on very rare occasions. The new music induced in 

= 93 

him physical suffering. He would listen to orchestral 
music only if it was arranged for the piano. 

This suggests the true meaning of the exclamation 
which I quoted earlier in this book, after Mendel- 
ssohn had played the first movement of the C Minor 

(f Und wenn das nun alle die Menschen zusammen 
spiel en" (Supposing the whole of mankind played 
it at once). 

We can picture him making off, his hands clapped 
over his ears. 

Is it astonishing? In 1830 Goethe was the man who 
long, long ago as a boy, had heard the seven-year-old 
Mozart play. He was descended from the far-off golden 
age, and the development of his organic sensibility 
could not keep pace with the growth of his intelligence. 

Now when a man's senses can no longer appreciate 
works of art without pain and suffering, his intelli- 
gence inclines him to the belief that here is an art 
which must inevitably crush and depress him. Goethe 
therefore put it from him. In so doing he put Bee- 
thoven from him. 

To every age its measure. What oppresses one will 
exalt the next. Thus it shall be to the end of time. 122 


■ JL.B.ilJfc-f-'T 1 



Goethe's attitude towards music has not hitherto re- 
ceived the attention which it deserves, especially in 
France. The man of letters who is also a musician is 
a rarity in Latin countries. When men of this type are 
found, their taste in music is usually so amateurish that 
it has been supposed that Goethe was cut to the same 
inadequate measure. Even at his best, Goethe was not 
considered to be on a higher level than that of a gifted 
amateur. He was known to be distinguished, refined, 
and sensitive, but without any technical knowledge, a 
man who judged musical works according to the im- 
pressions which they made upon him; these impres- 
sions, at times vivid and penetrating, were largely in- 
stinctive, and were often affected by the prevailing 
fashion of the day. His failure to understand Bee- 


98 ^^ 

thoven was thus set down to an incompetence in an 
art which was altogether alien to him. 

But when we take the trouble to follow Goethe's 
artistic life from beginning to end, we find that we 
must abandon this view. From first to last we are struck 
by the great part which music played in his life. 123 

We know, of course, that he was above all a 

Zum Sehen geboren, 

Zum Schauen bestellt . . . 

(Born to see, destined to observe . . .), and that to 
him the finest harmony was that which was conveyed 
through his sight. It was he who said so strikingly, 
"compared with the eye, the ear is a dumb sense" 
("gegen das Auge betrachtet, ist das Ohr ein stummer 
Sinn"). Nevertheless, there was no dumb sense in 
Goethe; every pore, as it were, was open to the beauty 
of the world, and we can almost say that in his case 
the ear was a second eye. 

As I have already said, his ear was most sensitive. 
He could not tolerate din; street noises were a torture 
to him, he had an aversion to the barking of dogs; he 
avoided the blare of the romantic orchestra, and at 
the theatre the kettle-drum beats hurt him; he would 
leave his box in the middle of the performance. We 

= 99 

must always bear in mind the extreme sensitiveness of 
his nerves, the delicate organisms which dominated his 
mind. His recognition of this heel of Achilles (for he 
knew all his weaknesses) was largely responsible for 
his isolation at Weimar, and his fear of large cities. 

But do not let us make any mistake. It was noise 
which he hated; the fulness of rich, pure sound de- 
lighted him. He had a fine and powerful bass voice, 
and liked to hear it. 124 Even at the age of seventy he 
astounded Mendelssohn by its "tremendous sonority" 
i^'ungeheurer Klang"). That voice, had he wished, 
could have been "heard above the din of ten thousand 
warriors," the young musician wrote to his sister Fanny. 
And indeed, when he directed rehearsals at the Weimar 
Theatre, his commands, thundering forth from his box, 
filled the whole theatre. 125 When he recited he knew 
how to use all the registers of his voice. 

He had developed this magnificent organ, not only 
by reading aloud and reciting, but also by singing. As 
a little child he learnt by heart the tunes of children's 
songs even before he could understand the meaning of 
the words, as children mostly do. In Leipzig he sang 
sentimental duets with the Breitkopf sisters. Never, 
throughout his life, did he write a Lied without hum- 
ming a melody to it. 120 "Never read, always sing" ("Nur 
nicht lesen, hnmer sin gen!" ) he wrote in a love poem 

100 = 

to Lina, recommending that, in order to read his poems, 
she sit at the piano and play. Here we have a trait which 
distinguished him essentially from all our songless 
poets. Of music he said that it was the "true element 
from which all poetry is derived and into which all 
poetry flows," like a river into the sea ("von der 
Tonkunst dem wahren Elemente, woher die D'tcht- 
ungen entspringen, und wohin sie zuruckkehren"). 

Besides singing, he had learned in Frankfurt to play 
the piano, and in Strasbourg he had studied the 'cello. 
We read that in 1795, at the age of forty-six, "he 
played the piano quite well" ( rf £r spielt Klavier, und 
gar nicht schlecht"). 127 There is, however, reason to 
believe that after he settled in Weimar (towards the 
end of 1775) he neglected the piano, except on rare 
occasions when he used Wieland's instrument. No 
doubt he did not consider it advisable to be heard at 
a court of music-lovers in which his fair friend, 
Frau von Stein, played both the piano and the lute. 
His privileged position enabled him also to hear music 
whenever he wished, without having to play himself; 
he had but to send for the court musicians, who were 
under his orders. 

It is well to remember, however, that music was to 
him not simply an amusement. It was either an intelli- 
gent interest for the mind, a means of soothing, calm- 

= 101 

ing, and restoring the spirit, or a source of direct 
inspiration to creative activity. 128 Thus in 1779 he sent 
for the musicians "to soothe his soul and set free his 
spirit" ({'die Seele zu lindern und die Geister zu ent- 
binden"), while he was writing Iphigenie. In 1815- 
16 he had recourse to music as a help to inspira- 
tion while he was writing Epimenides. In 1820 he 
wrote: "I can always work better after I have been 
listening to music." 

There is no doubt that he composed, and that he 
even wrote in several parts. The following is a curious 

During the summer of 1813 — the year after he met 
Beethoven — while he was alone in Bohemia and in a 
depressed frame of mind, he meditated deeply on the 
immortal words of desperate hope — In te Domine 
speravi et non conjundar in aeternum. He set them to 
music for voices in four parts. The following winter, 
reading his composition again, he asked Zelter to set 
the same words to music also in four parts. His oblig- 
ing friend obeyed. And Goethe, after comparing the 
two versions, wrote to Zelter (February 23, 1814) that 
the comparison had thrown a light on his own musical 
personality; his composition reminded him of Jom- 
melli's style (that wasn't half bad!). He added: "How 
astonished and pleased we are when we find ourselves 

102 ^^ 

unexpectedly on such paths. We become suddenly 
aware of our own subconscious life" ("Nachtwandeln" 
— literally, "sleepwalking" ) . 

But his conception of art was too high to permit the 
existence of schoolboy compositions; they were written 
in a language which remained foreign to him, no mat- 
ter how skilfully he spoke it. 

What had been his musical development? 

As a child, in Frankfurt, the Italian arias and the 
French light operas (Sedaine and Favart, Monsigny 
andGretry). 129 

In Leipzig, the German Sings pi el e (ballad operas) 
in which Johann Adam Hiller excelled. But the worthy 
Hiller, whom Goethe knew personally, was much more 
than an amiable musician; he was one of the greatest 
musical instructors in Germany. He had founded a 
weekly musical journal and had organized excellent 
symphony and choral concerts (he called them "musi- 
cal evenings") which later on became the famous 
Gewandhaus concerts. At these performances Hasse's 
oratorios were given with excellent singers, who roused 
the enthusiasm of the youthful audiences. Sixty-three 
years later these memories were still fresh in the mind 
of the aging Goethe, and he referred to them in two 

= 103 

touching poems, written in 1831 on the occasion of 
the eighty-second birthday of Gertrud Schmehling, 
who sang under the name of la Mara, the most famous 
of the soloists who appeared at these Leipzig concerts. 
Another of the singers, Korona Schroter, was engaged 
by Goethe, eight years later, to appear in Weimar; they 
were close friends and seem to have played with fire; 
it is said that Goethe burnt himself. . . . 

During this first period, before Goethe was twenty, 
the sceptre of music was wielded by Hasse, the great 
master of pure melody whom even Mozart hardly sur- 
passed. But the influence of Gluck was already becom- 
ing apparent. ... It goes almost without saying that 
Gluck represented for Goethe one of the loftiest peaks 
in the art of music, 130 and it was not altogether his fault 
if the two did not work together. In 1774, when 
Goethe's period of Lieder was in full blossom, after 
the delightful spring of Strasbourg, he was trying to 
find a composer who could work hand in hand with 
him. He asked one of his friends to mention him to 
Gluck, and she sent some of young Goethe's poems to 
the old composer. Gluck, unfortunately, was in one 
of his bad tempers. He refused even to read the poems. 
He said very angrily that he was very busy and had 
all the poets he wanted — Marmontel, Sedaine. . . . 

104 ^^ 

Two years later, in 1776, the roles were changed; it 
was Gluck who approached Goethe. They were sad 
days for Gluck. In April he had lost his adored niece, 
Nanette Marianna, "the little Chinese girl," the night- 
ingale whose voice was so frail and pathetic. She died 
at the age of seventeen. Gluck received the terrible 
news in Paris, on the morning after the first perform- 
ance of Alcestis, which had been a complete failure. 
He was grief -stricken; nothing mattered any longer; 
music meant nothing to him; he would not compose 
again. . . . Yes, he would write one more song in 
which all his love, all his despair, should cry aloud to 
the world. He wrote to Klopstock, he wrote to Wie- 
land. Both referred him to Goethe, and it was Wieland 
who put Gluck's request before his young fellow poet. 
Goethe was greatly moved; he began to give the mat- 
ter some thought. But those were days of feverish and 
troubled anxiety to him. He had just arrived in Wei- 
mar, where he was beset by the demands of pride 
and love. These were the early days of that passion- 
ate friendship which was to bring him so many 
joys, such creative dreams, and such torments. He was 
the slave of Charlotte von Stein. 131 His thoughts, filled 
for a while with the grief of the old singer of Orpheus, 
strayed elsewhere; he cast aside the work which he had 
begun. 132 In vain did Gluck plead. . . . 

= 105 
"My heart is filled with sadness," he wrote to Frau 
von Stein; "I am writing a poem for Gluck on the 
death of his niece" ^Ich wohne in tiefer Trauer iiber 
einem Gedicht dass ich fur Gluck auf den Tod seiner 
Nichte machen will") , 133 

It seems, however, that the plan which he had con- 
ceived for this was too vast. 134 He did not find the 
quiet frame of mind required for such a work, and so 
he gave it up. 135 

This was not, however, the last time that Goethe and 
Gluck were in contact. During the years which fol- 
lowed, Gluck was greatly appreciated in Weimar, 136 
and Goethe sought from him not only the creative stim- 
ulant which he often looked for in the works of 
musicians, but lessons in dramatic style and declama- 
tion. 137 His lovely friend, Korona Schroter, had 
often sung Gluck to him, and sung it well. Goethe at 
the time desired to train for his own personal use a 
composer who should, as it were, complement him. 
Music, indeed, was to him an integral and necessary 
part of the lyric and theatrical art with which he was 
then preoccupied. So he proposed to send Christoph 
Kayser, whom he had chosen for the purpose, to Gluck. 
He wrote to Gluck, who at that time was very ill, 
indeed at death's door, and the latter at once replied, 

106 ^= 

asking to be excused on account of his paralyzed hand 

At this time (1781) Goethe was much interested in 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's musical ideas. Goethe's 
"monodrama" Proserpina belongs to a class of play in- 
augurated by Rousseau's Pygmalion. 

But there was yet another and more powerful star 
rising in Goethe's heaven, Handel. Weimar was just 
then in theatrical matters well ahead of the rest of 
Germany, and about January-March 1781, the town 
saw the first performance in Germany of Alexander's 
Feast and of the Messiah. This was a great event for 
Goethe. He followed the rehearsals very closely and, 
according to his own confession, 138 he acquired "many 
new ideas on declamation" ("neue Ideen von Dekla- 
mation"). To Goethe Handel remained one of the 
gods of Olympus, although he had hardly any further 
opportunities of hearing his music in the little town. 139 
This was probably one of the grounds on which his 
friendship with Zelter was based. 140 It was a perform- 
ance of the Messiah which had decided the musical 
career of the young master-mason; it had moved him 
so deeply that he sobbed bitterly as he walked on foot 
from Potsdam to Berlin, after the performance (1783). 
The two friends were haunted by this great work, to 
such a point that later 111 they decided to write together 

= 107 

an immense oratorio which would stand worthily be- 
side the Messiah. In letters dating from 1816, Goethe 
sketched out the basic ideas of the plan: 

"The two ideas: Necessity and Liberty. ... In this 
circle everything is to be found in which man is inter- 
ested. ..." 

The work was to begin with the thunder on Mount 
Sinai, the "Thou shalt" ( rr D# sollst"), and end with 
Christ's resurrection, and the "Thou shalt be" (J r Du 

It has been justly pointed out that although this 
plan so enthusiastically conceived did not mature, the 
second Faust profited by several of its inspirations; the 
Epilogue in Heaven is its direct result. Who would 
ever have thought that Faust, in this magnificent per- 
oration, is the indirect heir of Handel? 

We shall see later how the exultant and illuminat- 
ing art of Handel affected Goethe's imperious tastes 
in religious music. There was, in fact, a preestablished 
harmony between him and this form of art. 

As he grew old, he felt an irresistible desire to re- 
juvenate his aging mind in this fountain of energy. 
In the spring of 1824 an essay by Rochlitz on the Mes- 
siah rekindled the fire of his imagination. He wrote to 
Zelter he imbibed with delight Handel's Geistesge- 
walt ("Gigantic Spiritual Power"). If anything could 

108 = 

have persuaded him to emerge from his retreat in 
Weimar and go to Berlin, it was Zelter's great orches- 
tral and choral performances, which reawakened in 
Germany the all-embracing spirit of Handel and 
Bach. Goethe eagerly read Zelter's letters on this 
subject; by means of them he heard the performances 
almost as perfectly as we would hear them by wireless. 

"It is," he once said, "as if I heard at a distance the 
sound of the sea" ( rf Es ist mir als wenn ich von feme 
das Meer brausen horte") . 

There is a close analogy between these words and 
Beethoven's remark on hearing Bach's music: "His 
name should not be brook (Bach), but sea . . ." 
("Nicht Bach sondern Meer sollte er heissen we gen 
seines unendlichen, unausschopfbaren Keichtums von 
7 ' onkombinationen und Harmonien"). 142 

Goethe was not only overwhelmed by these musical 
immensities; he also admired the architectural beauty 
of the oratorios. During the last three years of his life 
he never tired of studying the construction of the 
Messiah, Samson, and Judas Maccabaeus (1829-32). 

Towards the close of the year 1785 another star 
began to shine in his firmament — Mozart. Goethe then 
heard, for the first time, the opera // Seraglio, in 
Weimar. He was delighted with it. But this opera was 
a serious blow to him, for just then he and Kayser were 

= 109 

making great efforts to evolve a form of comedy with 
music. Suddenly, at a single stroke, Mozart wiped out 
all they had done, realized all they had hoped to 
achieve, and surpassed their utmost ambitions. Goethe, 
however, was not so narrow-minded as to bear him any 
ill-will. 143 From the day on which Goethe became the 
director of the Weimar theatre, Mozart reigned su- 
preme, and his reign endured. 

We must not forget that, for rwenty-six years, from 
May, 1791, to April, 1817, the climax of his life, 
Goethe undertook a task which to us seems ungrateful 
and out of all proportion to his genius, namely, the 
direction of a provincial theatre where not only plays, 
but operas also, were given. 144 He took this work 
very seriously, especially until 1808, when the per- 
petual quarrels incited by the prima-donna Karolina 
Jagemann, who was the recognized mistress of the 
duke, and who used her position to impose her will on 
the management of the theatre, caused him the utmost 
disgust. But during the long period of his direction, 
600 pieces were performed, of which 104 were operas, 
and 31 Sings pi el e (ballad operas). Mozart's works 
easily held the first place. When, in 1795, Goethe 
summed up the work of the theatre during its first 
ten years, he found that not one work had been given 
more than twelve performances, except The Magic 

110 = 

Flute with twenty-two, and // Seraglio with twenty- 
five performances. Twenty years later, the total num- 
ber of performances of Mozart's operas under Goethe's 
direction were: 82 of The Magic Flute™* 68 of Don 
Juan, 49 of 11 Seraglio, 33 of Cost fan Tutte, 28 of 
Titus, and 19 of The Marriage of Figaro, which, 
strangely enough, was in Weimar always the least suc- 
cessful of Mozart's works. Until the advent of Schil- 
ler's dramas, Mozart remained the first favourite; after 
Schiller's death, opera again outweighed drama. 
Goethe's best pieces, Faust, Tasso, lphigenie, Gotz von 
Berlichingen, were played only long after they were 
written and on rare occasions. More frequently we find 
his lighter works, his Singspiele, of which even the 
most popular, Jery und Bately, was given 24 times 
only. Mozart's supremacy in this theatre is therefore 

That Goethe agreed with the public verdict is proved 
by a famous letter to Schiller. The latter had expressed 
to his friend the great hopes which he had founded on 
opera; he was even of the opinion that "just as once 
upon a time tragedy was evolved from the choruses of 
the ancient feasts of Bacchus, it would again emerge 
from opera, but in a nobler form," because opera was 
free from the slavish imitation of nature, and in it art 
had "free play." Goethe replied: "You could have 

= 111 

seen your expectation of the future of opera realized 
to a high degree in Don Juan. But this work remains 
unique, and with Mozart's death all hope of hearing 
anything like it is lost." 

He expressed the same regret towards the end of his 
life, 146 when he deplored with Eckermann, in 1829, 
that he could find no suitable music for Faust. "It is 
quite impossible," said Goethe. "The music would 
have to be in the character of Don Juan. Mozart should 
have composed it." 147 

It is said that the last songs which Goethe heard 
were melodies from Don Juan, which his grandson 
Walther sang him on the evening of March 10th. 148 

Among the other masters of the lyric theatre whose 
works were most frequently performed in Weimar 
under Goethe's direction we find, during the early 
days, Dittersdorf, Benda, Paesiello, Cimarosa, Mon- 
signy, Dalayrac, Gretry, Salieri, and Sarti. 149 After 
1800, Cherubini, Mehul, Boieldieu. After 1810, 
Paer, Simon Mayr, and Spontini. Weber made his 
appearance in 1814 with Silvana, Beethoven's Egmont 
was given in 1812-14, and his Fidelio in 1816. 
Then came Rossini's period of triumphs: Semiramis, 
La Gazza Ladra, The Siege of Corinth, later William 

112 ^^ 

Tell and Moses. The only works which rivalled his 
were those of Spontini, for whom Goethe showed 
much consideration, and whom he treated as Rossini's 
equal, and Weber's Freischiitz. Finally there was 
Auber. Goethe, who at that time did not visit the the- 
atre frequently, heard, in IS 24, Euryanthe and Frei- 
sch.\:z. Fernando Cortez, Tancredi, The Marriage of 
Figaro; in 1S26 die Berber of Seville; in 1827 La Gazza 
LaJra; in 1S2S L; Dame Blanche and The Mason; in 
1S29 Oberon, which aggravated him. This was the last. 

Dramatic music was not sufficient for Goethe. He also 
liked sacred music on a large scale, and chamber music. 

As far as the first was concerned, the resources avail- 
able in Weimar were very meagre. During the finest 
epoch, that of Schiller and Herder, all that was given 
in the course of ten years were three or four oratorios 
by Haydn and Graun. The difficult}' was that Herder, 
the general superintendent of schools and churches, 
and Goethe, the director of the theatre, were compelled 
bv lack of resources to compete for the sen-ices of 
choristers. Herder complained, not without reason, that 
Goethe deprived him of the seminarist choir; but 
Goethe was forced to take this step in order to earn- 
on his opera house. 

= 113 
The chamber music consisted principally of con- 
certs by virtuosi. Goethe, however, was not satisfied 
His lifelong wish, as he expressed it in Wilhelm 
Aleister, was that music should form part of our daily 
life. His dream was a private choir, and in September, 
1807, he carried his plan into effect. The times were 
ripe for meditation and the culture of the arts. Ger- 
many's defeat, after the battle of Jena, forced the coun- 
try to turn to its own spiritual resources. Bode has 
pointed out how the different classes of society and 
the different provinces of the Vaterland were brought 
closer together. Even-body felt, as never before and 
never afterwards, the need of spiritual communion in 
their most sacred emotions, in art and in thought. 

Goethe's prestige was growing rapidly during those 
years; he was well aware that "noblesse oblige" would 
prevent him from accepting any benefit which would 
not, at the same time, prove of service to those who 
surrounded him, and through them, \"Teimar setting 
the example, to the whole of Germany. Two months 
after the foundation of his private choir he presented 
it to a circle of chosen friends, and a month later to 
the court; still later (February 22, 1810) to the whole 

This choir, which had very modest beginnings, was 
really a choral society (a four-part chorus). The 

114 ^= 

young violinist and composer, Karl Eberwein, soon 
became the conductor. The repertoire, which increased 
rapidly, consisted mainly of the great Italian and Ger- 
man sacred music: Jommelli, Joseph Haydn, Mozart, 
Fasch, Salieri, Ferrari (offertories, motets, canons, 
hymns), as well as Lieder by Zelter, Reichardt, and 
Eberwein. Even masses and fragments of oratorios 
were introduced. Of course Goethe's personal influence 
was felt much more in the rendering of the Lieder and 
the humorous compositions, because there the poet and 
theatrical producer insisted on his rights; it was he 
who decided on the tempi and the expression. 

But in the execution of both kinds of music, sacred 
or secular, there was one inexorable law which Goethe 
imposed on his musicians and which governed the 
choice of his programs; he would have none of the 
tendency, then so common in Germany, to whining, to 
religious lamentations and love laments, to what he 
called "graveyard music." Though the particular cir- 
cumstances of that period would have admitted, or 
even prompted, melancholy, this energetic man forbade 
its expression. He cursed the weeping-willow poets 
who had opened the flood-gates of this mournful 
inundation, among them Matthisson and Tiedge, both 
friends of Beethoven. I am not sure that the mere 
mention of the subject did not set him against the 

= 115 

immortal song-cycle, "An die feme Geliebte" ("To 
the distant beloved"), which his Zuleika, Marianna 
von Willemer, recommended so strongly to him. In 
the course of a journey in 1817 he heard a melancholy 
love song, "I have loved and love no more; I have 
laughed and laugh no more . . ."; he was furious and 
wrote at his hotel table: 

"I have loved, and now I begin to love more than 
ever. . . . Today as yesterday, the stars are shining. 
Avoid as you would the plague those whose heads are 
bowed in woe. Live always as if life were just begin- 
ning!" ( rr und lebe dir immer von vorne") ! 

This, then, was another trait, one of the best, which 
he shared with Zelter, who bore so many troubles on 
his shoulders and shook them off so cheerily. 

What Goethe demanded both of sacred and of sec- 
ular music was that it should set free the joy of living, 
moral confidence, whole-hearted energy, and above all, 
the impulse of reason; it should encourage the spirit 
of clearness of thought, the sense of the eternal, con- 
tempt for pettiness and nothingness. In that he is blood 
brother to Handel. What would not these two together 
have done, the Apollo of Weimar and the English 
Hercules? This preference was undoubtedly detri- 
mental to Beethoven, yet he would have been the first 
to approve of it. It was not Beethoven's fault if he did 

116 ^ 

not follow the same road as Handel. It was an ideal 
which greatly attracted him, but which the tormented 
soul of the man prevented his attaining. Besides, let 
us make no mistake; for Goethe, too, Handel repre- 
sented an ideal, whose faculty for abundant joyousness 
in music and whose serene mind attracted him all the 
more because he himself did not possess them, as he 
told his friend Councillor von Muller. He compared 
himself to Napoleon and contrasted himself with him: 
Napoleon loved only tender and melancholy music 
because these qualities were opposed and complemen- 
tary to his own character. Goethe said that soft and 
sentimental melodies depressed him: "I need lively 
(Jrische) and energetic music to grip and uplift me. 
Napoleon, who was a tyrant, needed softness in music. 
I, for the very reason that I am not a tyrant, love lively, 
gay, merry (rauschende, lebhajte, heitere) music. 
Man aspires always to be what he is not." 150 Should we 
therefore be justified in saying that in Beethoven he 
avoided what he himself was . . . what he himself 
did not desire to be? . . . 

In his choir, in his home, he cultivated gay secular 
music, folksong especially, and virile sacred music. 
He was also very fond of string quartets; it was, indeed, 
the form of instrumental music he liked best. Here 
again he agreed with Beethoven whose real and csscn- 

= 117 

tial nature found expression from beginning to end in 
the string quartet . . . The quadriga suited Apollo . . . 
What Goethe derived above all from this form of 
music was a pleasure founded on reason: 

"I hear," he wrote to Zelter, "four people of good 
sense discoursing together; I have the feeling that I 
learn something from what they are saying, and I be- 
come acquainted with the individuality of each of 
them." 151 

He disliked, however, the violent shocks which the 
new instrumental music afforded. He must have con- 
ceived it as an attack upon the liberty of the mind, 
which is thus surprised and brutally violated. All that 
the mind could not grasp thoroughly, all that he 
summed up in the word ?neteorisches (of meteoric 
quality), was suspect, even antagonistic to him. Very 
probably, under this term he condemned, or at least 
segregated, Weber's operas and some of Beethoven's 
symphonies, the feasts of Dionysus, the orgies, the hur- 
ricanes, as he called them. 

His private choir lasted about seven or eight years 
only. As in the theatre, he succumbed to the poison 
of intrigue, to the petty quarrels of a vain and bicker- 
ing horde whose habits Goethe so well knew (he de- 
scribes them in masterly fashion in Wilhelm Meis- 
ter), but who attracted him, nevertheless. After 1814 

118 = 

he kept only two or three of his singers, who had 
become his personal friends. 

At this moment, just as the springs of his musical 
knowledge seemed to fail, his horizon was suddenly 
widened enormously by his intercourse with Bach. 

The Bachs were well known in Weimar where they 
had neighbours and relatives. John Sebastian came to 
Weimar on two occasions, once in 1703 for a few 
months and then in 1708 for nine months, as organist 
and Kapellmeister. His Weimar pupils maintained his 
traditions in that town for half a century. 152 More- 
over, the dowager duchess, who came from Bruns- 
wick and was a good musician, had studied under 
John Ernest Bach, of Eisenach, who had followed her 
to Weimar. It is very probable that she often played 
John Sebastian's works to Goethe. 

Goethe must also have met many other admirers of 
John Sebastian, for there were many of them in those 
days: there was, for instance, young Count Wolf Bau- 
dissin who used to say that he was ready to die for 
Bach, much to Goethe's disgust. 153 Goethe's friend 
Rochlitz, the historian of music, had in 1800 re- 
minded the all-too-forgetful German people that the 
last surviving daughter of Bach was living in utter 

= 119 

poverty, and had asked the public to send donations 
for her: Beethoven was a warm supporter of this char- 
itable appeal. Lastly Zelter had in 1810 given short 
lectures to Goethe on John Sebastian and his great 
rivals or forerunners. Goethe, therefore, was well in- 
formed of Bach's importance, and of his place in the 
evolution of music. 

But the direct experience of Bach's music and the 
definite impression it left on him he owed to his friend 
the inspector of Berka Spa near Weimar, Johann Hein- 
rich Friedrich Schiitz. This merry little fat man with 
his rubicund face, and his top-hat set askew on his 
head, was a passionate admirer of Bach. He had bought 
bundles of manuscript music from John Sebastian's 
last pupil, Kittell of Erfurt. This music he played to 
Goethe, who was at once greatly impressed and re- 
mained so to the end of his days, which shows that 
his musical disposition was essentially serious. He was 
never tired of hearing the "Well-tempered Clavi- 
chord" and was always asking Schiitz to play him the 
preludes and fugues. He likened them to "brilliant 
mathematical works, the themes of which are so simple 
and the poetical results are so magnificent." 154 From 
that time Schiitz and Goethe met frequently. Either 
one or the other would pay a visit to his friend in the 
neighbouring town. The piano would at once be 

120 = 

opened, and inspired reason, in a never-ending stream 
of music, would pour forth. In 1818 Goethe had this 
music played to him for three or four hours a day for 
three whole weeks. Referring to the perfect sense of 
repose which this gave him, he used to say, "I go to 
bed, and Schutz plays me Sebastian." 

Schutz sometimes played well into the night. Goethe, 
Zelter, and he often gave one another Bach's music as 
presents, his chorales, for instance, and the "Well- 
tempered Clavichord." It must also be mentioned to 
Zelter's great credit that he was the first to revive the 
Passion according to St. Matthew. He conducted it in 
Berlin with his Singakademie, his regiment, as he 
called it, with the support of young Mendelssohn. 155 
Zelter's letters to Goethe frequently mentioned the 
wonderful wealth of organ music which he had intro- 
duced. 156 And Goethe's whole being vibrated in unison 
with this mighty ocean, with its roar heard from afar. 157 

Since for Goethe there was no musical enjoyment 
in which reason did not share, his letters to Zelter fre- 
quently show his scientific interest in Bach. Now he is 
studying the second volume of Rochlitz's essays On 
Bach's Compositions for the Keyboard (1825); now 
he questions Zelter eagerly on the Couperins, and 
their alleged influence on John Sebastian (1827). 

= 121 

His anthropocentric genius is always seeking the 
principles of art and science in the laws which govern 
the human body and its sensibilities. 158 In his study 
of the relations of body and mind in music, he points 
out the importance, as shown in Bach, of the foot and 
of the hand in organ-playing. 159 

Goethe saw far beyond John Sebastian and that pre- 
classic age of which the men of letters and even the 
musicians of his day knew so little. He was well ac- 
quainted with the vocal polyphony of the sixteenth 
century. He had discovered its beauty during his stay 
in Rome in Lent, 1788, at the Sistine Chapel, and his 
friend Christoph Kayser had helped him to under- 
stand it. They had listened together assiduously to the 
a cappella works by Palestrina, Morales, and Allegri. 
In Milan they had studied the Ambrosian chants. 

Goethe had also commissioned Kayser to make re- 
searches into ancient music, because his intuition told 
him that here was to be found the source of Christian 
chants. 160 Later, when at Weimar Goethe attended the 
Easter church services which were sung by the Greek 
choir of the hereditary princes, he was struck by the 
close relation between the Russian hymns and the Sis- 
tine chants, and he asked Zelter to tell him something 
of the origin of old Byzantine music. 161 But Zelter's 

122 = 

classical erudition was so poor that he did not even 
know the meaning of the word "Byzantine." 162 

In Rochlitz he would have found a musical guide of 
much greater culture. But, in spite of his long connec- 
tion with him, it seems as if Goethe feared to offend 
his old friend Zelter if he summoned Rochlitz to 
Weimar. 163 However, he read Rochlitz's books, and 
especially during the latter part of his life, when he 
went out less, he studied musical history assiduously 


All this, however, did not satisfy his intellectual 
hunger. In music, as in all other branches of knowl- 
edge, his mind sought to deduce a scientific theory from 
his experiences and the facts which came to his knowl- 
edge. He sought to establish a Tonlehre (Theory of 
Musical Sounds) as a parallel to his Earbenlehre (Col- 
our Theory) . His aim was the discovery, in the multi- 
plicity of phenomena, of the primitive and central 
Unit, rt So muss das dies eins werden, dies aus Einem 
entspringen und zu Einem zuruckkehren . . . (1810) 
("So everything must become one, everything must 
issue from one source, and must revert to it"). 

He found some eminent associates with whom to 
discuss the problem of natural science in music: the 
mathematician, Johann Friedrich Christian Verneburg 

= 123 

of Eisenach (about 1808-11), and the famous special- 
ist in acoustics, Ernst Chladni of Wittenberg (between 
1803 and 1816), whom he liked for his independence 
of academic science. But his usual colleagues in these 
discussions were his Zelter, who recited to him such 
science as he had learnt by heart and whose schoolboy 
creeds Goethe mercilessly crushed, and an intelligent 
young man, Christian Schlosser; Goethe intended to 
make the latter his musical secretary, to write, in ac- 
cordance with the lines laid down by the master, the 
Tonlehre, which he proposed to publish. Schlosser, 
however, was not interested in this. Lacking his col- 
laboration, Goethe was unable to carry out his plan, 
but the scheme was never abandoned. 165 So keen was 
his interest in it, that, as late as the year 1827, he had 
the main lines of his Tonlehre written out elaborately 
on a large sheet, which he framed and hung in his bed- 
room. Although, according to his own admission, he 
never got beyond the mere skeleton of this science, his 
theories are considered worthy of discussion by some 
authoritative writers on music of our present day. Hans 
Joachim Moser published a monograph on Goethe und 
die Musikalische Akustik™ and Hugo Riemann ex- 
pressed his approval of Goethe's theories. 

The problem which interested Goethe particularly, 
and at which he worked till the eve of his death 167 was 


that of the minor mode. He discussed it with Zelter 
in 1808, 1810, and 1821, and with Schlosser in 1814-15. 
Zelter's replies did not satisfy him at all, for Zelter 
had recourse to explanations based on the physics of 
music — i.e., the divisions of the string. The minor 
third, according to him, was not a spontaneous mani- 
festation of nature, but a product of art, derived from 
the major third. Goethe disagreed entirely. It is human 
nature, he said, which is the source of the musical 
universe (Tonwelt) . It is in this direction that we must 
search, and not experiment with artificial instruments 
such as are used for mathematical tests. "What in- 
deed is a string and its mechanical divisions, com- 
pared with the musician's ear? We can go further and 
say, What are natural phenomena compared with the 
man who must first master and modify them all, in 
order to be able, in a certain degree, to assimilate 
them?" 168 

His powerful subjectivism eagerly seized upon 
Schlosser 's suggestion, that the two modes, major and 
minor, are two different manifestations of the same 
single Tonmonade — the living unit of sound. "If the 
Tonmonade expands, the result is the major mode, if it 
contracts, then the minor mode is produced." 

The centre of the monad is formed by the deepest 
sound, and the periphery by the highest. But Goethe 

= 125 

and Schlosser did not agree on the aesthetic and intel- 
lectual value of the two modes. Schlosser, with a strong 
inclination towards romantic religiosity, was of 
the opinion that music's centre of gravity was to be 
found in the melancholy of the soul which tends to 
introspection, and withdraws from outside influ- 
ences; the minor mode to him was the most intimate 
expression of the human heart in its aspiration towards 
the infinite. Goethe protested against this; he would 
not allow that sadness is the centre of the soul and of 
art. He was willing to admit that human nature has a 
double tendency. On the one hand it seeks the objec- 
tive, demands activity, and claims external things; on 
the other it seeks the subjective, demands concentra- 
tion, and claims those things which are within itself. 
The major mode was the expression of all that excited, 
exalted, and propelled the soul towards the outer 
world. The minor mode was, perhaps, the mode of 
concentration. But concentration was in no sense syn- 
onymous with sadness. No, a thousand times no! What 
sadness could there be in a polonaise that was in a 
minor key ? These were popular dances, and those who 
joined in them did so with an ardent desire to com- 
mingle soul and body. Was this sadness or voluptuous- 
ness? 109 (How fine it is to watch the vigorous old man 
brush aside with a sweep of his hand all the mel- 


ancholy of the effeminate romanticism which was to 

But there is another example, and a much more in- 
teresting one. I mean the Marseillaise, that Marseillaise 
which Beethoven, in some inexplicable way, never 
seems to have noticed and of which I cannot discover 
a single trace in his work. How utterly unaware he was 
of it is shown by the fact that, as late as 1813, he intro- 
duced the grotesque Malbrouck march in his Battle of 
Vittoria to represent his idea of the French. 170 

Goethe had heard it on the battle field of the 
Argonne, at Valmy and in Mainz, and he remained 
under its stimulating influence for the whole of his 
life. It is interesting to know that what impressed him 
most, and what he remembered best, was the sombre 
and menacing minor, the shadow, not the light. But 
for him this shadow had nothing in common with a 
depression of the spirit. It was, on the contrary, an 
explosion of avenging fury. . . . 

"I know nothing more terrible than military music 
in a minor key. Here the two extremes clash, and 
wound the heart instead of stunning it. The most re- 
markable example of this is the Marseillaise." 

"Dagegen ich nie etwas schrecklicheres gekannt habe 
als einen kriegerischen Marsch aus dem Mollton. Hier 
wirken die beiden Vole innerlich gegeneinander und 

= 127 

quetschen das Herz, anstatt es zu indifferenzieren. Das 
eminenteste Beispiel gibt uns der Marseiller Marsch." 111 

We see then how wide and prolonged Goethe's musi- 
cal experience had been; he had played himself, he 
had heard a great variety of musical performances, he 
had meditated upon music, he had studied its history 
and science. What then were his shortcomings, what 
was there in the music of the time which escaped him? 

Intellectually, very little indeed. The new tendencies 
which were working in were felt by him as well 
as by others. In June, 1805, when he was writing 
a commentary on he Neveu de Rameau, he distin- 
guished between two musical schools — the Italian, 
essentially vocal and melodic, and the German, instru- 
mental and harmonic — and he longed for the advent 
of the master, who, uniting the two, should introduce 
into instrumental music the forces of sentiment 
(Gemiitskrafte). 112 

He was right, and his conclusion should have been, 
"The master has come ... he is Beethoven." But at 
that time Goethe had not yet heard any of his music. 173 

Did Goethe lay down any limits to the expressive 
and descriptive powers of the art of sound? No; when 
in 1818 Adalbert Schoepke asked him, "What are the 

128 ^= 

limits of expression in music?" Goethe answered, "It 
is the great and noble privilege of music to create a 
mood within us without using ordinary exterior means 
for the purpose" ( fr Das Inner e in Stimmung zu setzen, 
ohne die gemeinen ausseren Mittel zu brauchen, ist der 
Musik grosses und edles Vorrecht") . 

These are exactly Beethoven's principles, (f Mehr 
Ausdruck der Empfindung als Mahler ei" (rather an 
expression of feelings than a pictorial representation). 
More than that, Goethe recognized that music is 
privileged to go further than reason, and to penetrate 
regions for ever closed to speech and analytic intelli- 
gence. In his conversations with Eckermann on "de- 
moniacal matters" ("das Damonische") he referred 
to the unconscious or subconscious poetry, for the 
comprehension of which intelligence and reason prove 
insufficient, and continued: 

"The same applies, in the highest degree to music, 
because music occupies so lofty a plane that reason 
cannot approach it; from music emanates an influence 
which dominates all, an influence of which no man may 
give an account" ("Desgleichen ist es in der Musik im 
hbchsten Grade, denn sie steht so hoch dass kein Ver- 
stand ihr beikommen kann, und es geht von ihr eine 
Wirkung aus, die Alles beherrscht und von der Nie- 
mand im Stand e 'ist, sich Rechenschajt zu geben") . 1U 


Is this not a confirmation of the exalted profession 
of faith which Beethoven made to Bettina: 175 

"Music is the single, the immaterial entry into a 
higher world of knowledge which envelops man but 
which he cannot understand." 

It is indeed much that this master of intelligence, 
the great Goethe, should at the close of his life recog- 
nize the sovereign rights of musical intuition. 

Would it then not have been possible for Beethoven 
and Goethe to agree? What was the stumbling-block 
to Goethe's musical understanding? As far as intellec- 
tual understanding is concerned, there was none. But 
his physiological tolerance failed him when those natu- 
ral limits were reached which advanced age imposes 
on organic sensitiveness. It was asking too much of a 
man of the time of Cimarosa, Haydn, and Mozart to 
share the feelings of the age of Weber, Schubert, and 
Berlioz. 176 Is any one of us capable of a complete re- 
juvenation after half a century of life? The only new 
musical genius whom Goethe could normally have 
adopted and incorporated in himself, during the cycle 
of his life, was Beethoven. I have tried to explain the 
reason why he failed to do so. 

Certainly the greatness and the achievements of 
Weber, Schubert, and Berlioz escaped him. It is of 

130 = 

interest, then, to examine more closely certain of these 
failures in understanding, particularly in the case of 

Schubert, in 1814, at the age of seventeen, had made 
his first appearance and during the following year had 
set to music some of Goethe's Lieder\ in 1816 he com- 
posed his splendid Erl King, and asked the poet, 
through his friend Spaun, for permission to dedicate 
this work to him. Goethe did not reply; he had not 
read it, for his time was entirely taken up with other 
matters. And who was there to sing it to him? "Who 
knew the name of "Schubert" in 1815 ? 

His attitude of refusal was more serious when, ten 
years later, on June 16, 1825, Goethe received on the 
same day a quartet by Mendelssohn and the wonderful 
melody, An Schwager Kronos, and two other songs, 
An Mignon and Ganymed, by Schubert, with a very 
respectful dedication to himself. Goethe mentioned 
with satisfaction the gift from Mendelssohn, whom he 
liked personally, but he never replied to Schubert. Is 
there any excuse for this? Weimar's best musician, 
Hummel, "discovered" Schubert only in 1827; Mari- 
anna von Willemer, as always well in advance of 
others, had been greatly impressed by the Lieder from 
the Divan and had mentioned them to Goethe; she had 


forgotten only one detail in her letter, the composer's 

There is, however, proof that between 1825 and 
1830 Goethe heard some of Schubert's most famous 
Lieder, and that his first attitude was strong disap- 
proval. One of the works was the Erl King. Can we 
wonder? Goethe naturally judged it from the poet's 
point of view. 177 He had written the poem as the simple 
story told by a poor washerwoman, who hums it, almost 
without giving a thought to the words; the song weaves 
about her and her work an atmosphere of popular 
fantasy. . . . Goethe was now presented with a melo- 
dramatic piece full of theatrical effects — raging temp- 
ests and so on. . . . He was annoyed with the light- 
ning flashes, and the rolling thunder, so out of all 
proportion to his simple idyll. He saw in the song 
merely lack of intelligence and exaggeration. He 
shrugged his shoulders. . . . We can hear Zelter scoff- 
ing at Beethoven, "Those people use the club of 
Hercules to kill a fly!" 

If there was one vice in art which Goethe could not 
tolerate, it was the ff Non erat is locus" ("Out of place") . 

But though he grumbled to his heart's content at the 
liberty which the composer had taken with his work, 
could he not have risen above it and been artist enough 

132 ^^ 

to see the beauty of the music, even if its effect differed 
from his own conception? 

He did recognize it. When, on April 24, 1830, Wil- 
helmine Schroder-Devrient came to his house and sang 
the Erl King, he was moved to the very fibres of his 
being, and he was noble enough to make his mea culpa 
to the spirit of Schubert. He said: "I had already 
heard this song, and it meant nothing to me. But sung 
like this, it conjures up a great picture before my eyes." 
And he kissed the forehead of the inspiring singer. 

Similarly, a month later (May 25) he had at last to 
bow his head, whether he liked it or not, before the 
elemental force of the C Minor Symphony, which Men- 
delssohn unrolled before him. 

At the age of eighty-one he had still sufficient vigour 
to cross the mighty ravine which Beethoven and Schu- 
bert had cleft, as it were, in the road of his musical 
appreciation. Is this not an achievement? None could 
say that in him old age had frozen the stream of life. 
Which of us at his age would keep so open a mind and 
display such energy? 

Of Berlioz Goethe knew nothing. Zelter's abomina- 
ble letter, in which he poured a stream of the vilest 
invective on Berlioz's Eight Scenes from Faust, had dis- 
gusted him for ever with this style of composition 
(June, 1829). 

= 133 

In conclusion, Weber. Here Goethe's lack of ap- 
preciation was due fundamentally to the personal 
antipathy of which I have already written, and to the 
old man's intolerance of the din of brasses and percus- 
sion instruments which were then a novel feature of 
orchestration. Even Spontini, whom Goethe held in 
particularly high esteem, upset him with his noisy 
orchestration of his Vestale. "This noise," he told 
Christian Lobe, "quickly tires me" {ntich bald 
ermudet). To which Lobe replied that one got used 
to it as one got used to Mozart, who at first proved 
very tiring. 

"But there must be a limit," Goethe went on, "be- 
yond which one cannot go without injury to the ear." 

"No doubt there is," replied the young man. "But 
the fact that most people can now listen to Spontini, 
seems to prove that this limit has not yet been reached." 

And Goethe, faced with the fact, admitted that it 
might be so ( ff £j mag sein"). 

But this was in truth the whole point, and this was 
the real reason of the dignus intrare, which he granted, 
or refused, to new works of art, "There must be a 
limit. ..." Yes. But where is it? Nothing is more 
natural than that in 1829 the aged Goethe and his old 
friend Zelter should have found that the new music 

134 == 

had exceeded this limit, not only in the means which 
it employed, but also in its portrayal of emotion. 

"It exceeds the level of human sensibility. We can 
no longer follow it either in thought or action." 
("Alles ist jetzt ultra. Alles transzendiert unauf- 
haltsam an Denken und Tun . . ."). 

Just as our pre-war generation judges the youth of 
today, so Goethe deplored that, long before maturity, 
the younger generation had been shaken to the roots, 
"that the whirlwind of the times had carried it away" 
before quiet and meditation had had time to restore to 
it balance of personality. The year 1830, as Goethe 
saw it, was already given over to the turmoil of dis- 
cordance and erratic action for which we blame — or 
for which we praise — the year 1930. In reality it is 
the periodical conflict of two successive stages of sen- 
sitiveness, a conflict which follows unceasingly a curve 
of regular progression, without, however, passing cer- 
tain limits; for, as the curve rises, the lower parts 
gradually vanish, the sensitiveness of former periods 
disappears; it is, as it were, a new keyboard, which has 
the same number of octaves as the old. But, while the 
structure remains the same, the mentality which is 
housed in it shifts from one level to another. And as 
organic tolerance thus moves with the times, those who 
live longer than the normal span of life are bound to 

j =135 

suffer from variations in the rhythm and in the intensity 
of their sensations. They cannot acclimatize themselves 
to the new conditions. 

The onward march of the generations is strictly nor- 
mal. Goethe at the beginning of his artistic career had 
heard in 1763 the playing of the child Mozart. Just 
before his death he had listened to little Clara Wieck 
(October 4 and 5, 1831), who was to become Schu- 
mann's wife and muse. 178 He had withstood with a 
magnificent strength the strain induced by the conflict 
of two epochs so different in character. 

Our survey of Goethe's musical disposition would be 
far from complete if we merely considered its passive 
side — hearing and understanding. A powerful nature, 
a mind such as his, receives nothing without restoring 
it enriched and ennobled. Wherever Goethe passed, he 

As, however, he was not a musician by profession, 
but a poet, it is interesting to discover what traces 
music has left in his poetic creations. 

The first trace is his keen desire to write libretti: the 
importance which Goethe attributes to this, and the 
tenacity with which he persevered in it, rather surprises 
us. This inclination of his may almost be compared to 

136 ^^ 

the great passion which Ingres, the famous painter, had 
for his violin. 179 Many hours, many days were given to 
this work; his efforts and his researches deserved a 
nobler object and a more striking success. 

Goethe sketched or attempted one form of musical 
play after the other. In 1766, in early youth, he wrote 
a libretto for an Italian operetta, La Sposa Rapita. 180 
Then followed the German Sings pi el (ballad opera) , 
or the Lusts piel (prose comedy), to which he added 
arias and Lieder\ in 1773-74 he wrote his Erwin und 
Elmire, for which Johann Andreas Offenbach com- 
posed the score. Later in life, as we have seen, he was 
considering the possibility of a dramatic-musical col- 
laboration with Gluck, and when the old man did not 
receive him kindly he chose a young and gifted musi- 
cal friend, Christoph Kayser, whom he hoped to shape 
in accordance with his views. At the same time, with 
his friend, Korona Schroter, he mastered the art of the 
ballet and devised new forms (1782). During the first 
period of his life at Weimar everything that he wrote 
was intended for accompaniment by instrumental or 
vocal music. A good example of this is his Proserpina, 
2l monodrama, spoken to music, after the style of 
Rousseau (1776). Another example is his Lila, a fairy 
opera. It was then that he studied Handel's and 
Gluck's declamatory style. His plans, however, could 

= 137 

not be fully carried out in Weimar, because he lacked 
the cooperation of a competent musician. 

In 1779-80 he went with his grand duke to Switzer- 
land. His chief motive for going was the hope of meet- 
ing Kayser again, who had settled in Zurich, and of 
writing with him a Sings pi el on a Swiss subject. This 
was Jery und Bately. His letters to Kayser give us a 
very clear definition of the music which he wanted. 
This time it was Quinault who gave orders to Lulli.* 
For this play Goethe wanted three distinct kinds of 

1. Folk songs. 

2. Emotional airs. 

3. Music to accompany dialogue, adapted to the 
miming of the actors. 

This dialogue must preserve a unity of style, which 
should be based, if possible, on a principal theme and 
developed by modulations, modes and rhythms, but it 
should never lose its logical sense and its outline, which 
must be simple and clear. "The dialogue must be like 
a smooth golden ring, in which the airs and Lieder are 
set like precious stones" ( fr Der Dialog muss wie ein 
glatter goldener Ring sein, auf dem Arien und Lieder 
wie Edelgesteine aufsitzen") . m 

* Translator's Note. — Lulli, the court musician of Louis XIV, was 
accustomed to prescribe to Quinault, a poet of merit, the subject and treat- 
ment of the libretti which he required for his operas. 

138 ^^ 

The composer, so Goethe maintained, must absotb 
thoroughly the character of the piece. This general 
character should dictate the style of all the melodies 
and accompaniments. The orchestra should be quite 
small, and the accompaniment not overpowering. "The 
riches of music lie in discretion. A composer who 
knows his work can do more with two violins, a viola, 
and a bass, than others with a whole orchestra." The 
wood-wind should be what spice is to a dish. The 
instruments should be used one by one: now the flute, 
now the oboe, now the bassoon. In this way the purity 
of the music will give the greater pleasure. Most mod- 
ern composers, on the contrary, serve everything to- 
gether, with the result that fish and meat, whether 
roasted or boiled, taste the same. 182 

Goethe, however, was then only at the beginning of 
his misunderstandings with Kayser. The latter worked 
so slowly at his composition, that Goethe had to take 
the play from him and give it to another composer, the 
nobleman in charge of the amusements at the Court of 
Weimar. Finally he lost all interest in the matter. 

Nevertheless, Goethe did not give up hope of 
Kayser. He had him invited to Weimar. In vain did he 
try to make a man of the world of him, in vain did he 
persuade him to take to heart the last teachings of 
Gluck, just before the latter 's death. In vain — all in 


vain! Yet in 1783 he wrote the libretti for five ballad 
operas (Siugspiele). 183 

Some time afterwards he heard a good Italian com- 
pany and at once abandoned the hybrid form of spoken 
dialogue mixed with comic-opera songs, and decided 
to write, still with Kayser's cooperation, short operet- 
tas, entirely sung, and opera buff a. For five years, from 
1784 to 1789, he worked at an operetta, with three 
characters — Scapin, Scapine, and the doctor — "Scherz, 
List und Racbe" ("J est > Cunning, and Vengeance"). 
On this subject he corresponded with Kayser almost 
as widely as he corresponded with Schiller on the sub- 
ject of Wilhelm Meister. All the evidence goes to 
show that he attached far greater importance to the 
subject than it really deserved. He desired to create in 
Germany a new kind of dramatic-musical art, and he 
wanted the first production of the kind to be a master- 
piece. But apart from the fact that he had no adequate 
helper and had to do practically the whole of the musi- 
cian's work as well as his own, it was an art of which 
he knew nothing; he had to learn as he worked — Fit 
jabricando jaber. Unfortunately, the knowledge which 
he gathered while working was acquired too late: it 
showed him his errors only after they had been com- 
mitted. When he saw Mozart's // Seraglio, in 1785, he 
realized his weak points, but too late. Mozart, without 

140 ^^ 

Goethe's preliminary process of thought, but from 
sheer instinct, from the impulse of genius, had given the 
German theatre a comedy with music, full of feeling, 
sparkling with joy, like the rain and sunshine of a 
lovely day in spring. Thus Goethe discovered the utter 
sterility of the intellectual perfection which he had 
conceived in a work so deeply — all too deeply — 
thought out. There were only three characters in the 
four acts, all three of them rogues. He now decided to 
have seven characters and to give emotion a large part 
in the plot. But a casting which is almost cold cannot 
be remoulded; Kayser had already shaped himself in 
the first mould, had lost all elasticity, and could not 
follow the constant changes of his great collaborator's 
mind. The final result was an unheard-of waste of 
time, and an enormous amount of work expended for 
no result. In autumn, 1789, Goethe, honest as always, 
surveyed his past efforts and admitted, "All this 
tremendous work is lost" ^Geht die ungeheure Arbeit 
verloren"). 184 

Of these ruins the most enduring relic is perhaps his 
correspondence with Kayser, in which we find a power- 
ful and striking aesthetic idea of the theatre. Goethe 
insisted that everything in this work should be "salta- 
tio," 1HS which he described to Kayser as a continuous 

= 141 
melodic and rhythmic movement. He mentioned this 

"My highest conception of drama is action without 
interruption" (J'Mein hochster Be griff vom Drama ist 
rastlose Handlung"). 

Here again Goethe nearly went too far in his con- 
ception of intellectual perfection. But he pulled him- 
self up. His knowledge of the psychology of the public, 
all the keener for his experience of the theatre and of 
actors, showed him that it was impossible to realize 
such a plan. Human nature would not lend itself to it. 
Goethe came to the conclusion that repose must alter- 
nate with movement, and that the climax of movement 
and of sound must be reserved for the end of the 
piece. It was what the masters of Italian farcical opera 
[opera buff a) had already done by instinct. 

Goethe also gave much time to the careful study of 
poetical rhythm in comedy set to music. In this he did 
not follow the Italian example. Instead of adopting 
their even, flowing phrases, so well suited to melody, 
he broke them whenever the action became passionate. 
His ideal of those days was very Mozartian and had 
nothing academic or pompous about it; he wished to 
create an ensemble of beauty, movement, and life. This 
is why he was bored by the insipid Italian grand opera, 
so cold, so restricted, so grandiloquent. Soon after his 

142 ^^ 

arrival in Rome he wrote: "I am too old for every- 
thing except for what is true" (J r Auch da hob' ich 
wieder gejiihlt, dass ich fur Alles zu alt bin, nur fur's 
Wahre nicht"). 

Hence his enjoyment of farcical opera, the vivid and 
unsullied outpouring of the Italian nature. His dream 
was to bring Moses' staff with him to Germany, the 
staff which would bring forth water from the rock. 
Mozart could do it. . . . But Mozart was unique and 
was soon to die. Ah, why did Goethe wait so long? 
Why did he not go to him at once? Why did he per- 
sist, for fifteen long years, in clinging to his Kayser 
and trying to shape him according to his will ? Kayser 
was no doubt a worthy man, very dignified, highly 
moral, religious to the point of renunciation, 186 a good, 
well-trained musician, but desperately slow — a shadow 
which vanished into nothing in the light of Goethe, 
the sun. 187 

In 1789, Kayser definitely retired into his solitude at 
Zurich, where he remained till his death in 1823. 
Goethe was faithful to his memory, and never forgot 
the sorrow which Kayser's abdication caused him. 

But this disastrous experience, although it lasted fif- 
teen years, did not discourage him. No sooner did a 

= 143 
new collaborator appear than Goethe at once resumed 
his great schemes for musical drama. This time he 
worked with Friedrich Reichardt of Konigsberg, a 
brilliant and intelligent man, active, brimming with 
energy, inventiveness, warmth, and life — the very op- 
posite of Kayser. It was not Goethe who had to go 
after the musician. Reichardt came and came again; he 
wrote and wrote again; he gave Goethe no peace. 

Together with Johann Abraham Schulz, Reichardt 
had founded in Berlin the splendid Lieder school which 
in the course of thirty years blossomed over the whole 
of Germany. . . . The principle of the school was that 
"the composer's music must interpret the poet's words." 
Word and sound, phrase and melody, must be one. 
These were indeed Goethe's own views. 

Since 1780 Reichardt had been passionately fond of 
Goethe's poems, which he was always setting to music. 
Many of his inspirations were delightful; after a cen- 
tury and a half they still preserve their delicate per- 
fume. With a deep understanding of Goethe's artistic 
ideas he had an accurate touch for his declamatory 
passages. In the same scene he would alternate, with 
the happiest results, instrumental passages and decla- 
mation, pass on to the sung recitative and then to the 
aria, of which he varied the rhythm and the expressive 
character. He begged Goethe to write an operatic 

144 ^^ 

libretto, and the poet, encouraging him, conceived the 
idea of a lyric drama, the characters of which would be 
inspired by Ossianic lore. He intended to incorporate 
in this work the Norse mythology and the Sagas. 

"I have already formed a plan, of which I will tell 
you when you come again." 188 

I like to imagine the Norns beginning to weave in 
the Olympian's brain the destiny threads of the Wan- 
derer in Wagner's Ring. . . , 189 

He resumed at the same time the subject of the 
Queen's Necklace, and made of it a light opera in three 
acts — "Die Mystifizierten." 

In Venice he met his composer again, and Reichardt 
did not allow the promise of an opera libretto to grow 
cold. But Goethe's interest had waned. At this time the 
demon of natural science was beginning to obsess him, 
and he had no longer any inclination for these things 
( rr Kein Gemut zu allem diesem IVesen"). However, 
Reichardt kept close to his heels, and so Goethe re- 
turned to Fingal and Ossian. But nothing was to come 
of it. An evil fate pursued both poet and composer. 

Reichardt, whose sympathy with the French Revolu- 
tion had made him impossible at the court of Berlin, 
lost his position as Hofkapellmeister, a. post which gave 
him every opportunity of producing music-drama. And 
although Goethe had become, in 1791, the Oberdirek- 

= 145 
tor of the Weimar theatre, his provincial stage lacked 
the necessary equipment for such performances. 

He could not even perform his ballad operas there, 
nor had he any hope of having an opera performed 
on any other German stage. Now Goethe would never 
write a theatrical work in abstractor without knowing 
beforehand the theatre, the actors, and the public for 
whom the work was intended. He therefore abandoned 
all idea of this work and buried himself in science 
(Farbenlehre, 1792). Besides this, the events of the 
time demanded imperiously that the "toga should yield 
to arms." He left for the campaign against France. 190 

On his return, his friendship with Reichardt, the 
friend of France, the Jacobin, cooled considerably, and 
under the influence of Schiller became a distressing 
enmity after the year 1795. 191 

Zelter replaced Reichardt. In 1796 he commenced 
his work on Goethe's Lieder. Their correspondence 
began in 1799, and from the beginning of their friend- 
ship they found that they were in closest sympathy. As 
early as 1798, Goethe said that Zelter's Lieder were a 
faithful reproduction of his poetic intentions" (^'eine 
radikale Reproduktion der poetischen Intentionen") . 192 
In 1799 he said, in a letter to him, that while it was 
true that he had inspired melodies in Zelter, it was no 

146 ^= 

less true that Zelter's melodies had inspired him to 
write more than one Lied. "I feel certain that if we 
were living together I would be in a more lyric mood 
than I am at present." 

Had Goethe then, at the age of fifty, found at last 
his musical collaborator, of whom he had dreamt so 

No. He was only to meet new disappointments of 
which he never spoke; for Goethe never complained to 
others, and always buried his sorrows within himself. 
God knows he was not spared many. 

There is no doubt that in Zelter he found his most 
faithful, affectionate, and devoted friend, a friend who, 
as it were, took root in him, derived from him all the 
joy of living, and died when Goethe died. 193 No doubt 
also this musician became the most accurate interpreter 
of the ideas in Goethe's Lieder, so accurate that, as he 
told Goethe, "there was no need for him to search for 
new melodies; all he had to do was to find those which 
were already in the poet's mind unknown to him." 194 

Zelter, however, failed to understand Goethe's most 
persistent dream, to create, in collaboration with a 
musician, great epic and dramatic works. It is possible 
that Zelter, realizing that he was incapable of carrying 
these schemes into effect, merely pretended incompre- 

= 147 
hension. It was a perpetual misunderstanding. In 1799 
Goethe sent Zelter his First Walpurgis Night, and out- 
lined to him his scheme of composing great dramatic 
ballads. Zelter, instead of taking advantage of the occa- 
sion, asked Goethe to write him an opera libretto. Some 
time before Goethe had thought of writing a Greek 
tragedy with choruses, The Danaides\ but he aban- 
doned all idea of it. Zelter's dramatic collaboration 
was limited to some incidental music for Egmont and 
Gotz von Berlichingen, at Weimar. Some years later 
Zelter again asked for a text for an opera, and sug- 
gested as a subject, "Hercules" or "Orpheus." The idea 
of setting to music the first Faust, published in 1808, 
never occurred to him, this task being left to Prince 
Radziwill. 105 In vain did Goethe ask him to compose 
at least the music for some of the songs, for instance, 
the magnificent chorus of spirits, "Schwindet ihr 
Dunkeln" ("Vanish, dark spirits"), when some scenes 
from Faust were performed at Weimar at the end of 
1810. Zelter found some excuse for avoiding the task. 
Thus the unfortunate Goethe was compelled to have 
recourse to his willing musical factotum, Eberwein, the 
conductor of his little private choir, who as a composer 
was below mediocrity. Goethe at first tried him in his 
monodrama Proserpina, and in 1814 he discussed 

148 ^= 

Faust with him. He went to the trouble of doing all 
the preparatory work: he shortened the first mono- 
logues, shortened the scene with Wagner, changed the 
whole beginning up to the end of the Easter chorus, 
"Euch ist der Meister nah, Euch ist er da" ("The Master 
is near you, he is here") , into a single scene in mono- 
logue, interrupted only by the apparition of the Spirit 
of the Earth (Erdgeist) , and the choruses. He decided 
that Faust's words should have a soft musical accom- 
paniment, that the approach and the apparition of the 
Spirit of the Earth were to be treated melodramatically, 
and that the Easter chorus should be melodious. Eber- 
wein could not understand how music could be intro- 
duced into the piece. Goethe made patient efforts to 
explain the poem to him, induced him to feel the very 
pulse of the music, tried to make him realize the 
atmosphere of mystery which pervades Faust's magic 
laboratory when he opens the book of Nostradamus. 
. . . Eberwein could not grasp it . . . 198 and Goethe 
gave it up . . . (spring, 1815). 

Next year he formed the great project of which we 
have already spoken, the oratorio which would stand 
side by side with the Messiah? 91 Zelter was to write 
the music, and it was to be given at the jubilee of the 
Reformation. But the realization of such a work soon 

= 149 

proved to be hopeless. Zelter was utterly unable to cope 
with it . . . and Goethe gave it up. . . . (1816). 198 

How many times had Goethe to renounce his hopes! 
And there, close at hand, was Beethoven, who would 
have been only too glad to work with him and for him, 
to set Faust to music, 109 and to write, at his dictation, an 
oratorio after the great example of Handel! 

The last blow came in February, 1816, when he 
wished to present at his theatre a play specially written 
to celebrate the German victory, Des Epimenides Er- 
wachen ("The Awakening of Epimenides"); and the 
musicians, his musicians, scoffed at the work and at 
him! They had not even the decency to hide it from 
him. Goethe was deeply hurt. He declared that from 
that day on he would never permit in Weimar the 
performance of any new music written for his poems. 
It was the end of forty years' laborious efforts to wed 
his poetry to music on the stage. It was a complete and 
humiliating defeat. 200 

But if the theatre was denied him, if, tired and dis- 
appointed, he refused to visit it except on rare occa- 
sions, Goethe had still not given up his cherished 
dream; far from it, for he concentrated on it within 
himself, on the stage of his own thoughts. He created 

150 = 

his own theatre, in perfect freedom, his own invisible 
opera, his great lyric drama. He gave us the second 

There is no doubt of this; we are not putting for- 
ward a hypothesis; they are his own words. 

It was into this stream of thought that Goethe, 
throughout his life, directed the torrents of poetry and 
music which flooded his subconscious being. His aim 
was that stage representation should include every 
musical resource — instrumental music, solo voices, 
choruses as well as scenery. Speaking to Eckermann, 2ffl 
Goethe stated, forcibly: 

"The first part of Faust can only be entrusted to the 
greatest tragedians. Then, in the operatic part (tm 
Telle der Oper), the different characters must be in 
the hands of the finest singers. The role of Helen can- 
not be played by one artist; two great artists are re- 
quired for this, for it is very rare that a singer is at the 
same time a tragedian of the first rank." 

But where could a composer be found who com- 
bined, in accordance with Goethe's express wish, "the 
German natural characteristics with the Italian style" 
( f 'welch >er seine deutsche Natur mit der italienischen 
Art und Welse verbande"} ? A second Mozart? . . . 
Goethe did not appear to be very anxious to find him. 
It looks as if his ambition to see the actual realization 

= 151 
of this great work had diminished almost to vanishing- 
point. When Eckermann showed signs of impatience, 
he answered, calmly: 

"Let us wait 202 and see what the gods will send us in 
due time. Such things must not be hurried. The time 
will come when the significance of this work will be- 
come manifest to mankind, and when directors of 
theatres, poets, and composers will take advantage 
of it." 

He showed no interest in the result. He no longer 
desired to see the great work on the stage. In his mind 
he had already seen it. 203 

Thus ended a life's effort to create a new type of 
theatre. Renunciation and introspection were all that 

But the second Faust gained by this very fact a far 
greater value; it was the outcome and the combination 
of all the dreams of poetry and music which Goethe 
had accumulated on the stage of his inmost self. How 
full of light becomes this immense work, which baffled 
all the critics of the time and broke with all traditional 
forms! ... It is a universe in the first stages of crea- 
tion, when the Spirit moves upon the face of the waters, 
awaiting the "Let there be light," — the light of the 
second Goethe, the musician. 204 

I do not wish, however, in writing thus, to convey the 

152 ^= 

impression that the second Faust is, in my opinion, 
merely a gigantic libretto. A libretto is only half a 
poem. A work by Goethe, even when written for music, 
is in itself more than a poem. It already contains its 
music. As Goethe said in the lines which I quoted at 
the beginning of this essay, ef Nur nicht lesen, immer 
singen!" ("Never read, always sing"). The poem is, 
in itself, a song, but it is much more besides: it is an 
orchestra. In Faust, Parts I and II, Goethe's work is 
such that it suggests fairy stories of the romantic period 
in their instrumental setting. It is Wagnerian, and even 
surpasses the Wagnerian idea. 

Philip Spitta has described it well. Goethe, whose 
aging senses could not respond to the new music, 
such as Beethoven, Schubert, and Weber, was never- 
theless the creator of the poetical world which they 
illuminated and painted in music. Poetically, he created 
a music which was even greater than theirs. No musical 
genius ever did, or ever will express in a Lied certain 
Lieder by Goethe, which in two lines express the 

"Ueber alien Gipjeln 
1st Rub . . ." 

"Was . . . 

durch das Labyrinth der Brust 
Wand el t in der Nacht ..." 


7 ^' i 

' ofhi . 


■U-< * ■ ««■ ••:« 


= 153 

"They are too musical to be set to music," said 
Spitta, profoundly. Only in instrumental music could 
the expression of such thought be attempted. But even 
then it would be merely the creation of an atmosphere, 
a circumambience magical, but, alas, empty. The 
mighty waves of light which rise and fall on the ocean 
of sound will always lack the single utterance which 
should capture them, making them one with the spirit. 

Goethe created a Sprachmusik (music of speech) 
and he was its master. When he reigned over his little 
company of actors in Weimar he made them go 
through a very strict course of "musical speech." This 
was particularly the case at the beginning of the cen- 
tury, from 1800 to 1807, and it could almost be said 
that during that time his company was under Goethe's 
conductor's baton. This is not a metaphor, for when 
conducting the rehearsals of plays he actually used a 
baton to indicate rhythm and speed of speech. Like 
Schiller, Goethe was in arms against the "realist" 
school and held that tragedy should be modelled on 
opera. He conceived his company of actors as an or- 
chestra, in which every player subordinates himself to 
the ensemble and plays his part punctiliously. 

He made Wilhelm Meister express his ideas on this 
subject in his speech to the comedians. 205 "In a sym- 
phony no player would think of accompanying loudly 


another player's solo; each endeavours to play in ac- 
cordance with the spirit and intentions of the composer, 
and to give a perfect rendering of the part entrusted to 
him, whether it be important or not. Should we not 
work with the same precision, with the same intelli- 
gence, we who cultivate an art far more elusive than 
any form of music, for the reason that we have to 
portray, with taste and understanding, not only 
the commonest but also the rarest features in human 

Wilhelm, thanks to his duke's favour, was to his 
great delight, master of Philine and the theatrical com- 
pany.* But his delight did not last long, for Philine 
became the duke's mistress and the comedians covered 
him with ridicule. Nevertheless, he carried out his 
ideas. He conducted the actors as a Kapellmeister con- 
ducts his singers and his orchestra. 206 He insisted upon 
strict adherence to his tempi, and his light and 
shade: forte, piano, crescendo, diminuendo. In 1803 
Goethe put his ideas into definite form, in his Rules 
for Actors (Regeln fur Schauspieler). In these he de- 
scribed declamation as a "prose-music" 207 ( tf eine pro- 
saische Tonkunst"). In the producer's copy of his 
Bride of Messina he annotated the text, like a musical 

* Translator's Note. — Wilhelm Mcister is really Goethe himself. 

= 155 

— Here, whispering softly (halblaut rauschend). 

— Here, clearer with more sound (heller, klmgender). 

— Here, dully (dumpf). 

— Here, deep and awestruck (tief, schauerlich) \ 

— Here, in a different tempo, much quicker (muss ein 

anderes, v'tel schnelleres Tempo gewahlt werderi) . 

These indications, however, did not satisfy him. He 
wanted one of Maelzel's mettonomes, such as Bee- 
thoven and the musicians of his time had. For his 
"music-speech" school he compiled a whole table of 
"bars" in which the time-length of each word and each 
pause was given. He even drew a diagram, giving in 
millimeters, the duration for each punctuation sign. 

This fondness for rules and for typically German 
discipline, threatened at times to kill his creative im- 
pulse. The poet cannot hide the drill sergeant! We 
might suppose that such a method would lead to the 
mechanical movements of a regiment drilled at a word 
of command. 208 But Anton Genast tells us that the 
great instructor used these methods only with beginners 

156 ^^ 

and gradually gave them a free hand, as they became 
masters of their technique. 209 

His actors, however, were not alone in being com- 
pelled to submit to the methods of the conductor of 
an orchestra. Goethe, the master-poet, himself sub- 
mitted in his creations to the spirit of music. When 
his poetical genius had reached full maturity (1796- 
1806) he sometimes wrote down, before beginning the 
actual composition of the poem, in words which had 
neither sequence nor sense, the sound effects and the 
rhythm of the lines. When rhymesters would reproach 
him for disregarding the traditional rules of metre and 
rhyme, he would reply: 

"Let me enjoy the music of it" ("Lass mich des- 
Gesanges gemessen"). 

But this music was not music as conceived by musi- 
cians. It was Goethe's ambition to create a new order 
of music, his own personal achievement, 210 and to estab- 
lish a form which he considered superior to music with- 
out words. When he had drunk his £11 of ordinary 
music the poet-king would raise the sceptre, which he 
had never for a moment laid aside. 

"The beauty of perfected human speech (Rede)" 
he told Knebel, "is far greater than that of song. There 
is nothing we can compare to it: its inflections and 
modulations (Abwechslungen und Mannigfaltig- 

= 157 
keiten) in the expression of our feelings {Gemiit} are 
infinite in number. 211 Song must return to simple 
speech, when the greatest dramatic and emotional 
heights are to be attained. All the great composers have 
noticed this." 

Music was never to him what it is to great musicians, 
namely the means of perfecting speech. It is the poet's 
words which perfect music. 

In this both musician and poet are right, if in each 
case the result is a work of genius, for it absorbs the 
whole of the world within them, the total ego. The 
proportions of the elements employed by the ego for 
its conception and self-expression may vary, but the 
sum total remains the same. A Goethe is a musician in 
poetry, just as a Beethoven is a poet in music. 212 Those 
who are only musicians, those who are only poets, are 
but minor princes, whose powers do not extend beyond 
the borders of their little provinces. But Goethe and 
Beethoven are emperors of the soul of the whole uni- 




During the short time which has elapsed since the pub- 
lication, as a serial, of my first studies on Goethe and 
Beethoven, the biography of Bettina has been enriched 
by new documents, which shed further light on her 
interesting and many-sided personality. The principal 
source has at last been tapped. The private archives 
of Wiepersdorf , the family home of the Arnims, where 
Bettina's letters had been collected, were jealously 
guarded by her second son, Siegmund, a companion of 
Bismarck in his young days and an ultra-conservative, 
who would not allow any outsider to see his treasure; 
they were opened, after his death, to a privileged few 
who were allowed to make a careful scrutiny of Bet- 
tina's correspondence with Goethe. 213 But a vast num- 
ber of letters, sketches and drafts remained untouched. 


162 ^^ 

In 1929 the whole collection was sold. Public opinion 
in Germany, roused by this dispersal of historic docu- 
ments, induced private munificence to provide the 
means of buying up almost immediately and classifying 
the nucleus of this correspondence, namely all that 
refers to Goethe; nevertheless many manuscripts were 
scattered to the four winds. We have been able to dis- 
cover from the catalogues of antiquaries some of the 
secrets of the "Goethe-Bettina" enigma. The curtain 
has been lifted, in part at least, especially on those days 
in Teplitz, in August, 1810, of which I have written in 
my first essay, and which must have left on Bettina's 
mind a far deeper impression than it was wise for 
Goethe to arouse. 

Before quoting here a very intimate letter, over 
which, as it seems to me, the piety of Goethe's admirers 
has drawn a veil — a veil which has scarcely been raised 
— I must recall in a few words to the reader, who may 
not be so well instructed in this true romance as are the 
Germans, the principal stages in Bettina's passion for 

It is indeed a strange and mysterious story, a life's 
dream, from which the heroine could never free her- 
self, even for a moment. It is a case of invincible auto- 
suggestion, a destiny ordained, as it were, at birth, and, 

E 163 

as Bettina would have told us, a reincarnation of love 
beyond the grave. 

Her mother, Maximiliana La Roche, a beautiful 
woman, native of the Rhine Provinces, was loved by 
Goethe when he was twenty-three and she was sixteen 
(1772-73). This love was not a passing infatuation, 
but Maximiliana, obedient to her parents' wish, mar- 
ried a merchant named Brentano and settled in Frank- 
furt, where Bettina was born on April 4, 178 5. 214 

After her mother's premature death in 1793, Bettina 
was brought up in a convent, where the works of poets 
were not accessible to her. So she was seventeen before 
she read Goethe's poems, which at first she did not 
understand. 215 During the years which followed, how- 
ever, she came by degrees to appreciate their charm, 
and her disposition, which was wholesome, fresh, and 
spontaneous, set her apart from the malevolent pru- 
dishness of Cassel society, the people who expressed 
disgust at Egmont's "vulgarities" and at the poet's 
"platitudes." This innocent attraction for Goethe had, 
however, no personal character, until that fateful day 
in June, 1806, when, at her father's house in Offenbach, 
she discovered by chance eighty-four letters from 
Goethe to her grandmother, Sophie La Roche, written 
between 1772 and 1775, full of the young man's adora- 
tion of her mother. 

164 ^^ 

This revelation had an overwhelming effect on the 
young girl. She copied the whole correspondence sev- 
eral times. (One of these copies was sold by auction 
last year. ) She learnt them by heart. And this sensitive 
dreamer, to whose burning eyes the beauties of nature 
were an open book, bore henceforth upon her heart the 
impress of Goethe's young love. This may justly be 
termed, speaking scientifically, a phenomenon of ob- 
session, which nothing could efface; it was beautiful, 
it was touching, but it had its dangerous side. 

On October 21, 1809, she wrote to Goethe, in a 
state of melancholy ecstasy: 

"I really believe that I have inherited this feeling 
from my mother. She must have known (erkannt) you 
intimately. She must have possessed (genossen) you 
fully when I was coming into the world. ..." 

What was her thought? That she was Goethe's 
daughter ( ff das Kind") ? 216 Perhaps. But she certainly 
imagined that she was the child of his lov e, and that 
this love returning from beyond the grave to Goethe 
the beloved, to Goethe the lover — had taken upon 
itself her bodily presence. 

This love-stricken folly found forthwith the environ- 
ment in which it could best thrive. In the same month 
in which she discovered the correspondence she has- 
tened to Goethe's mother, Aja, who, when she spoke 

= 165 

of her "little boy," was as exaggeratedly sensitive as 
Bettina. She declated that she was cmelly sepatated 
ftom him by the distance ftom Ftankfutt to Weimat — 
aaually only a few houts — but to her an eternity. . . . 
The two love-stricken women, the old and the young, 
both full of fantastic ideas, both warm-hearted, found 
in the love of their common idol the path to each 
other's affection. 

The old woman poured into the girl's ear a never- 
ending stream of gossip, her triumphant recollections 
of the child Goethe, which Bettina drank in like 
parched soil under a shower. We can imagine how, in 
such circumstances, the obsession took root and 

In the following spring she paid her first visit to 
Goethe (April 23, 1807). ... In those days travel 
was no easy matter; war was raging throughout the 
country. In order to accompany her brother-in-law, 
Jordis, from Cassel to Berlin, whence they proceeded 
later to Weimar, she and her sister had donned 
men's clothes. It reminds us of a scene from As You 
Like It. Finally Bettina arrived alone, her heart 
beating violently, almost fainting with emotion, at 
Goethe's door. She had a letter of introduction from 
Wieland, who presented her as the daughter and 
granddaughter of beloved friends who were no more. 

166 = 

Shall I describe this well-known meeting once again? 
It has been told so well by Fritz Bergmann, who, after 
a careful scrutiny of the somewhat embellished account 
of the incident which Bettina gave later, has verified 
the essential points, and has with delicacy expressed her 
emotion. Both the old man and the young woman 
shared it. For him, what a flood of remembrances: it 
was indeed the beloved dead who came to see him. 
. . . For her, what a mingled torrent of joy and fear: 
she stood tongue-tied, at one moment overcome, at 
another peacefully content. There followed a strange 
reaction, at which some have foolishly sneered, though 
it was the most natural in the world; exhausted with 
emotion, the young girl lost consciousness and fell 
asleep on Goethe's knees, in his arms. 217 The fainting 
fit lasted but a few moments. Goethe was very kind 
to her. He was deeply touched by the elemental force 
of emotion in his "little Mignon." He spoke to her 
affectionately, and at length, dismissing impatiently the 
inquisitive Christiana who had opened the door and 
asked him to go out with her. With the sweet mes- 
senger from the past, he reviewed the days of his 
boyhood, felt his youth reawaken in the cramped at- 
mosphere of Weimar, and with a symbolic gesture, 
full of significance for the young dreamer who doubt- 

= 167 
less saw in it a token of mystic betrothal, he placed 
a ring upon her finger. 218 

Later Goethe appreciated the danger. When the 
young enthusiast poured out in a letter to Goethe's 
mother the longings of her heart — the mother did her 
best to fan the flame — 21 * and when the old lady had 
sent him an account of the ardent feeling which he had 
aroused in Bettina, Goethe knitted his brows and with- 
drew in stubborn silence. To Bettina's first letters there 
was no single word of reply. 

So Bettina went to seek the answer which she could 
not otherwise obtain. She returned to Weimar, at the 
beginning of November, 1807, this time accompanied 
by a throng of relatives — Clemens, Arnim, her sister 
Gunda, and her brother-in-law Savigny. She stayed in 
Weimar for ten days, seeing Goethe almost every day, 
and Goethe began to enjoy her company. Bettina no- 
ticed this and showed herself at her best; with her 
naive and spring-like charm she elicited friendly 
smiles; she was original and alluring and gave free rein 
to the impulses of her spontaneous fancy. During these 
familiar talks, these walks on Goethe's arm, their in- 
timacy had made such progress that when she wrote to 
him again, some weeks later, she used the familiar 
"thou," and henceforth continued to do so. 220 

Goethe, however, was still on the defensive; another 

168 == 

year passed before he, too, wrote "thou." 221 But his 
"you" was only a weak defence, and Bettina knew it. 
When, on November 10th, they parted, Goethe kissed 
her, 222 and soon did more for her than use the intimate 
"thou" in his letters. When she wrote him letters, 
aflame with love, he sent her back her own words like 
jewels in the magnificent setting of two sonnets. It 
was as if he entered into Bettina's deepest self, till both 
merged into one. We know what artists are, how 
mighty a force for deception lies in their impression- 
able nature; it is their peculiar failing, and we are not 
the dupes of their florid declarations. But how different 
must have been the impression upon Bettina. ... In 
February, 1808, she told Goethe that never before had 
she looked upon a man, 223 and that it hurt her to think 
that all her youth was being wasted. . . . "But now 
I have you. . . ." 

She was intelligent enough not to confine her letters 
to love; she dealt with poetry also; she wrote of Eg- 
mont, which she appreciated and discussed in striking 
fashion, and a little later of "Wahlverwandtschaften" 
("Elective affinities"). 

Her delight in Goethe's art was like the primitive 
delight of a child bathing in the sea. She discussed 
music with him and showed a virile taste for Cheru- 
bini's Medea and for Gluck's 1 phi genie auf Tauris; 

= 169 

following the wise promptings of heart and mind, she 
constituted herself the provider of music for Goethe's 
private choir; she sent him curious documents and suc- 
ceeded more than any other woman of his circle in 
appealing to his intellect. 224 

After the death of Goethe's mother, Aja (September 
13, 1808) , the poet's letters to Bettina show a far more 
affectionate tone. Now that his mother had gone, 
Bettina was the only one who knew the essential de- 
tails of his younger days which Goethe himself had 
forgotten. She was the sole keeper of all those precious 
memories which she had gathered from the lips of his 
own mother. He wrote to her a year later: 225 "Your 
letters give me great pleasure: they remind me of the 
time when I was perhaps as foolish as you but certainly 
happier and better than today." 

His smile could scarcely hide a feeling of regret and 
of melancholy. The months which followed showed 
that his affection increased. Goethe could resist no 
longer. 226 So much so, that when Bettina interrupted 
her correspondence for a few weeks, Goethe felt her 
silence very keenly, and wrote to her on May 10, 1810: 
"Dear Bettina, I have not heard from you for a very 
long time; 227 1 cannot leave for Karlsbad without send- 
ing you greetings, without calling upon you — by letter 
— and without receiving from you a sign of life. Your 

170 = 

letters accompany me. When I am there, they must 
replace your charming presence. ..." (We feel that 
Goethe is here restraining his feelings.) "I can say no 
more, for in truth there is nothing I can give you; it is 
either you who give everything or you who take every- 
thing. . . ." 

During the following summer months Bettina met 
Beethoven, and brimming over with the impression 
which he had made upon her, went to see Goethe in 
Teplitz and remained with him for three days, from 
August 9 to 12, 1810. 

What happened during those three days? The un- 
usual warmth of Goethe's letter, written to Bettina 
immediately after her visit, suggests that she had never 
been more favoured by her idol. I have shown this in 
my first essay, but there were many gaps in my story. 
Bettina's long letter of July 6-28, 1810, stopped sud- 
denly in the middle of a sentence in which she spoke 
of Beethoven. From July 28th to October 18th there 
was a lull in the correspondence which is all the more 
difficult to understand, as Goethe in his short letter, 
written on August 17th, five days after Bettina's de- 
parture from Teplitz, spoke with unusual enthusiasm 
of the many pages (Blatter) 228 which Bettina had left 
him, and which he "read over and over again"; he 
spoke also of one which had just arrived. . . . What 

= 171 
did he do with them, what did they contain, these let- 
ters which Bettina did not find in the collection which 
Councillor von Muller sent her after Goethe's death, 
in August, 1832? What is perhaps even more ex- 
traordinary is that Bettina, the last person to disguise 
her feelings — she would much rather have exaggerated 
them — did not rewrite them. She never wished to dis- 
turb the dust of those recollections. 

Here, however, are a few grains from the heap, dis- 
covered last year, among the drafts of Bettina's letters 
which were sold under the hammer and which have 
not been mentioned in any of the books on her: 

"The twilight of evening was falling, this hot 
August day. . . . He was sitting at the open window, 
while I stood before him, my arms round his neck, my 
eyes piercing his to their depths, like an arrow. Perhaps 
he could withstand my gaze no longer, for, to break 
the silence, he asked me whether I felt hot and whether 
I would not like to be cooler? ... I nodded assent. 
He went on, 'Why not open your breast (Mach doch 
den Busen frei) to the evening breeze?' As I did not 
object, although I blushed, he undid my bodice, looked 
at me, and said: 'The glow of the sunset has reddened 
(eingebrannt) your cheeks.' He kissed my breast and 
rested his head on it. 'No wonder,' said I, 'for my sun 
is sinking to rest upon my bosom.' He gazed at me for 

172 ^= 

a long time and we were both silent. He then asked, 
'Has anyone ever touched your breast?' 'No,' I replied; 
'it is so strange that you should touch me thus.' Then 
he showered kisses on me, many, many, violent kisses. 
. . . I was frightened. . . . He should have let me go; 
and yet it was so strangely beautiful. In spite of myself 
I smiled, yet feared that this happiness should not last. 
His burning lips, his stifled breath — it was like light- 
ning. I was in a whirl of confusion; my curly hair hung 
in loose strands. . . . Then he said, softly: 'You are 
like a storm; your hair falls like rain, your lips dart 
lightning, your eyes thunder.' 'And you, like Zeus, knit 
your brows and Olympus trembles.' 'When you undress 
at night, in the future, and the stars shine as now upon 
your breasts, will you remember my kisses?' 'Yes.' 
'And will you remember that I should like to cover 
your bosom with as many kisses as there are stars in 
heaven?' . . . The memory of it tears me asunder 
(zerreist mich von alien Sett en), I long to dissolve in 
tears like a cloudy sky. — Never repeat what I confide 
to you this lonely night. I have never told it to anyone 
before. . . !" 229 

These ashes which we have just stirred still burn! 
What a glow do their embers throw on a letter which 
Goethe wrote some days later. What a light is shed on 
those written during the winter 1810-11, which still 

= 173 
exist, apart from the letters from Bettina which were 
destroyed and to which Goethe refers. 

"Bettina, dearest of all! (allerliebste) Your letters 
are such that the latest seems always the most fascinat- 
ing! Thus it was with the pages which you brought me, 
and which I read hungrily, again and again, on the 
morning you left me. But now comes your last letter 
which surpasses (ubertrifft) all the others. If you can 
go on surpassing yourself (iiberbieten) , do it! With 
yourself you have taken away so much, that it is only 
fair that you should send me back something. ..." 

To this letter he pinned a note asking her to send her 
reply not to Teplitz, nor to Weimar, but to Dresden, in 
care of a third person, and he added, "Oh dear, what 
will your letter tell me? . . ." 

We, too, should like to know. What did this letter 
contain, and those which followed, for more than one 
was written before October. During that month the 
correspondence which was saved from destruction be- 
gan again with a letter from Goethe, who had returned 
to Weimar on October 25th, in which he says that he 
should have thanked Bettina long ago "for the dear 
letters which reached me in due course (nach und 
nach), and particularly for remembering the 27th of 
August so kindly. . . ." It is lost to us, like all the rest, 
this souvenir of August 27th. All we know is that 

174 ^^ 

Goethe did not reply to the letters after his note of 
August 17th. He had set a gulf between this memory 
and himself. And now, instead of reverting to the past, 
we see the path into which he would direct Bettina's 
ardent sensibility; he took advantage of her frame of 
mind — he well knew how to handle loving hearts — to 
ask her to tell him all the interesting secrets which his 
mother, Aja, had confided to her, all those stories of 
his youth which he remembered no longer. He was 
rather troubled about them; who knows what Juliet's 
nurse told Romeo of her nursling? ... It was a great 
sacrifice which he asked of Bettina, for these stories 
were her personal treasure, to which no one else had 
access. How deeply Bettina must have loved him to do 
what he asked; we feel what it must have meant to her. 
Goethe, however, could not have chosen a more fa- 
vourable moment to secure this sacrifice from her. 230 

She complied with his wish. But she was not alto- 
gether unaware of his motive, as is shown by her reply 
of November 4th: 

"You have always some good reason for writing to 
me. But my heart retains nothing of your letter except 
the last words, 'love me until we meet again' {Liebe 
mich bis zum Wiedersehen\) If you had not added 
these last words, I should perhaps have taken more 
careful note of the motive prompting the request 

= 175 
which preceded them; but this single proof of affection 
has defeated me. ... A thousand tender thoughts 
have held me captive last night, and all today. And 
now I realize that what you demand (verlangst) is so 
precious to me that I find it worthy of your accept- 

Thereupon she threw open the sanctuary of her 
recollections. Is it not as if, in giving them to him, she 
gave herself again? She expresses a great deal in the 
following words, which sound so profoundly sincere: 

"Ich bin ein duf tender Garten dieser Erinnerungen" 
("I am a fragrant garden wherein these reflections 

She threw them to him by the armful, these flowers 
of the past, which he planted afresh in his Dichtung 
und Wabrheit. 

From this moment, however, I find a new tone in 
Bettina's letters. There is disturbance, sorrow, a passion 
imperious and burdensome; there are spiteful fits in 
which she inveighs against Goethe's friends and par- 
ticularly against his "house god," Zelter. There are, 
indeed, many heavy clouds in her sky. 

"Since we were together in Teplitz I find it im- 
possible to pay you compliments." 231 

"... Once I climbed a mountain top. . . . What 
is it that weighs so heavily on my heart? . . ." 

176 ^= 

Goethe remained impervious to the allusions in these 
letters, their cries of passion, their attacks on Zelter; he 
was deaf to the passionate dreamer with her strange 
soliloquies on music, thoughts like lightning flashes in 
the darkness of the night. . . . He took good care not 
to upset her. He did not waste his time: he gathered 
all these priceless recollections which she had in- 
herited from his mother. It was Bettina who gave, gave 
without end. . . . 

But was he, too, not giving, giving in even a larger 
measure than she? He was her love! He was her life! 
Was it not she who wrote: "If you only knew how 
often a single word of yours delivers me from the 
horrors of a crushing dream. Oh, tell me: 'Yes, child, 
I am within you'! Then all is well Tell me! 


When Goethe needed Bettina no longer he grew 
tired of her. No doubt he would. It is no easy matter 
to feel that one is so indispensable to another! Did not 
Bettina's hungry heart ask that Goethe should be 
"within her," should belong to her? 233 Such a man as 
Goethe could belong only to those who assumed no 
proprietary rights over his freedom. That is why he 
preferred his fat, amiable Christiana to Bettina with 
the exigencies of her love. 

Besides this, there was a deep misunderstanding 


= 177 

between them. The Goethe whom Bettina loved was 
not the Goethe of her time. The one she loved was the 
Goethe of -her mother, of the days of the first Wilhelm 
Meister. . . . Where are the snows — where is the fire 
— of yesteryear? 

Eckermann, asked by Moritz Carriere what Goethe's 
relations were with Bettina, replied: "She always loved 
him, but she was often a nuisance; she asked the old 
man to undertake what he had done long ago, as a 
young man. She would tell him: 'Art and antiquity, 
what's that? {Was Kunst und Altertum?) You must 
write a Gotz von Berlichtngen\ that's better!' And he 
would reply: T have written it. To each thing its 
proper time.' " 234 

I shall not refer again to the fatal rupture, which 
Goethe had determined upon and which took place 
between him and Bettina in 1811, in spite of her efforts 
to renew her relations with him. Christiana provided 
the occasion, but even without Christiana the break 
would have occurred. In vain did Bettina write to 
Goethe again in 1817. He did not answer, and her 
attempts to enter his house by surprise only irritated 
him the more. 

Finally, however, he could not but be moved by the 
unwavering loyalty of the friend whom he had re- 
buffed. It was particularly her scheme for a monument 

178 = 

to him in Frankfurt 235 which softened his heart and 
showed his human weakness. He decided that he 
would let her know how much he was touched. . . . 

It was a supreme consolation decreed by fate! 
Twelve days before his death, on March 10, 1832, a 
young messenger from Bettina came to see him, Sieg- 
mund von Arnim, her second son, who was then 
eighteen. The mother's letter said, "Embrace me anew 
in this child" C'Umfasse mich neu In dies em Kinde"). 
Goethe was kind and fatherly. He invited him to his 
table and saw him daily, until he was stricken by the 
illness from which he never recovered. Mignon's son 
was his last visitor, and the lines which he wrote in 
Siegmund's album were Goethe's farewell to the 
world. 236 When the young man left him, Goethe was 
already ailing, and on his arrival in Frankfurt he heard 
of his death. We still have the letter which he wrote 
from there to his mother. Bettina was anxious to know 
if Goethe remembered her, and what he had said. His 
son could only tell her that Goethe had praised her 

"It will seem little to you, very little, but not to me. 
If you had seen him, already lost to this world, 237 but 
turning the pages of life as in a book, you would have 
thanked him from your heart for his friendly en- 
quiries about all that concerns you. . . ." 

= 179 

Bettina learnt of his death from a short paragraph 
in a newspaper which she found on the table, late at 
night when she came back from a reception. There the 
news was already known, but no one dared to tell her. 
We can imagine what that night must have been. But 
we should be wrong in assuming that this strong-willed 
woman, far stronger than we are apt to think, was 
plunged in a romantic grief. The blow which struck 
her couid not touch the Goethe whom she had created 
for herself — the Goethe whom she had enshrined in 
her heart. 

She could say, rather: "You can no longer escape 
me! Now I hold you for ever . . ." 

Her letter to Councillor von Miiller, written at the 
beginning of April, 1832, is proof of the nobility of 
her love, which was in truth stronger than death: 

"Goethe's death has indeed made upon me an im- 
pression deep and ineffaceable, but in no way sorrow- 
ful. If words fail me to express the actual truth of what 
I feel I can describe the glorious impression to you by 
a picture. He is risen from the dead, he is transfigured, 
he beholds from Heaven his friends whose souls, to 
their last breath, are fed by him. ... 1 am one of 
those who have no life except in him! I do not speak 
of him, I speak to him, and his replies are my fullest 
consolation. He leaves no question of mine un- 

180 ^= 

answered, no tender word or prayer without response. 
How could I be other than happy in the thought that 
at last he has attained that eternal bliss for which his 
whole earthly life had been a preparation? And now, 
here lies the path of my duty: I must cling so close 
to him that nothing may assume a stronger claim than 
his. By his side everything that life may bring me 
henceforth shall but strengthen my communion with 
him. Thus shall all that is worthy of survival in my 
earthly existence bear testimony to my love and to his 

She kept her word. And if the remainder of her life 
was not free from weaknesses — and why should it 
have been? She was essentially a woman, and that is 
why we love her — it remained under the aegis of the 
two gods to whom from the cradle her life had been 
dedicated, Love and Dreams, "Traum und Liebe." . . . 
These words would be a fitting title to her famous 
correspondence published in 1835, Goethes Briej- 
wechsel mit einem Kmde, in which, revising her 
original letters, she pours forth the flood of that inner 
consciousness which memory had released. Can we 
blame her? History, which since then has inquired into 
what she said, has sifted the dream from the reality. 238 
But history must, in the end, testify to the loyalty of 
her heart. And if a heart so loving has led her some- 

= 181 

times to embroider dreams on the background of her 
story, she has never knowingly altered the design. Her 
love and her person were always allied with legend 
and whatever she touched became legendary. Yet she 
was real. And if, sometimes, her opinion of others de- 
ceived her, she has never deceived others, or herself, 
about her own nature. 

This inner life of Bettina has by no means received 
the attention which it deserves. Enquiry has been 
focussed almost exclusively on her relations with 
Goethe. But no matter how intense this love may have 
been, we must not think that Bettina had no existence 
outside it. It is true that her whole outlook was 
illuminated by the burning flame of remembrance; but 
its boundaries extend far beyond Goethe's life and 
even beyond his thoughts. 

The abundant harvest of Bettina's literary activity 
has been studied in part. Without referring to it 
further here, there is much to be said of her ideas in 
music, 239 of her voluminous correspondence with the 
famous men of her day, Alexander von Humboldt, 
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Schleiermacher, Em- 
manuel Arago, Moritz Carri£re, Peter Cornelius, Em- 

182 ^= 

manuel Geibel, Friedrich Christoph Foerster, and 
others. Lastly there is her political activity. 

Fortunate circumstances and the authority which 
she had gained secured her direct access to those in 
highest authority, the princes 240 and the king of Prus- 
sia, and her courage did not fail her. Neither respect 
for their exalted position nor fear of displeasing them 
restrained her. She spoke openly and forcibly. She had 
decided for herself upon the ideal of what a prince 
should be — the servant of the community — and this 
ideal she meant to impress upon them. "Everything 
belongs to the people," she wrote to the Kronprinz of 
Wiirtemberg. "Let the prince go lacking, but the peo- 
ple must be free from want." The princes were both 
flattered and intimidated by the onslaught of this 
Deborah, the anointed of Goethe. They dared not pro- 
test too much. The year 1848 was coming, and its spirit 
was already weakening the sovereign power. This 
power was to return, with a vengeance, later on. 

Bettina had a splendid colleague in Berlin, Alex- 
ander von Humboldt, the last survivor, with her, of 
Goethe's great brotherhood. He helped her with all his 
energy and defended her books against the censor, 241 
for whom both had a feeling of utter contempt and 
hatred; 242 he supported her projects and brought her 
letters to the notice of the king, who was spared the 

= 183 

criticism of neither of them. Acting together, they were 
a real power, and King Frederick William IV had 
reason to fear their opinions. Certain interesting and 
unpublished documents which have been communi- 
cated to me by a granddaughter of Bettina, Madame 
Irene Forbes-Mosse, describe Bettina as a Portia plead- 
ing unceasingly the cause of the victims of the social 
order. "At a time when there was no Landtag (state 
Parliament) in Prussia, nor freedom of the press to 
ventilate wrongs, it was Bettina who brought them all 
before the king." 

Among the bundles of documents relating to such 
cases, which passed under the hammer last year, I 
notice first the case of the poet and professor, Hoff- 
mann von Fallersleben, who was disgraced and dis- 
missed from his post on account of his Unpolhische 
Lieder. Then that of the great manufacturer, F. W. 
Schloffel, the spokesman of the miserable Silesian 
weavers, who had been imprisoned on a charge of 
communism and high treason. 243 Bettina took up his 
cause and collected personally the material for an Ar- 
menbuch (Book of the Poor). In 1846 she appears as 
the champion of the Polish revolutionary Mieroslaw- 
ski, who had been imprisoned and condemned to 
death; he was pardoned, thanks to her vehement inter- 
vention. 244 In 1849 it was the case of the revolutionary 

184 = 

Kinkel, who was under death sentence. Bettina spent 
days and nights defending him, writing letter after 
letter to the king, who replied to her with equal in- 
sistence. In my collection are some drafts of unpub- 
lished letters by Bettina which are written in her most 
passionate style: 

"You say that Kinkel has been prompted by evil 
motives. This may be, but the stupidity of putting a 
man to death because he is a charge on society, and the 
folly of a law which authorizes such a crime, fills me 
with revolt. . . . What do his faults matter! It is not 
this particular man who matters. What matters is that 
it should no longer be possible for one drop of a man's 
blood to be shed when that man is in the power of 
the sovereign." 

It must be admitted that the king listened to the 
arguments of the Angel of Revolution with a respect 
and a patience which are a testimony in favour both of 
himself and of Bettina. In 1847 he wrote to her, about 

"You love loyalty and truth and demand it in others; 
you yourself are an example of both. But loyalty and 
truth do not cease to be loyalty and truth even when 
the lips of a king express them." 245 

Bettina, however, became too outspoken in her fever- 
ish attempts, and finally wounded the king's pride. A 

E 185 

break occurred at the end of 1847. At the same time she 
was engaged in a struggle with the Municipality of 
Berlin, was accused of lese-majeste and sentenced to 
two months' imprisonment. 

"You condemn," she wrote to Pauline Steinhauser, 
"my political tendencies. I have never undertaken any- 
thing, unless my inner self compelled me to it (ich 
habe nie etwas unternommen was nicht ein Muss in mir 
gewesen ware). Nor have my actions proved without 
benefit to humanity. There are many whose heads are 
still on their shoulders, who would have lost them if I 
had not fought desperately." 246 

She gave her support to the risings of 1848, as did 
another friend of Beethoven and Goethe, Wilhelmine 
Schroeter-Devrient. In her letters Bettina lashed the 
treacherous behaviour of the king and praised the peo- 
ple. But calumny and hatred accumulated forces against 
her. In April, 1848, she wrote to Pauline Steinhauser: 

"Believe me if they could have thrown me into the 
ditch it would have been done." 247 

She never flinched from her task: she remained in- 
domitable, facing her foes, even after the ruin of her 
hopes for democracy. She was "Freiheitsbegeisterte" 
("intoxicated with ideas of freedom") to the end of 
her days. 248 Such was her prestige, such was the gla- 
mour which she owed to Goethe, her master, that after 

186 ^= 

1848 the King of Prussia and the princes, in spite of 
their bitter feelings, treated her with the highest con- 
sideration and interested themselves, 1851-52, in the 
realization of her project of a monument to Goethe at 
Weimar. But the proud Bettina declined the royal offer 
to carry out the work, saying that "Goethe's monument 
could only come from the German people {well Goethe 
nur in deutschen Volk ein Denkmal erhalten 

It was the attitude of one completely aloof. In spite 
of the king's pressing invitations, she never went to 
court. 250 Her life became more and more retired; small 
and frail in her conventual robe of coarse black cloth, 
she meditated in her room, which she never left except 
in the evening to hear quartet music in her Pompeian 
hall — Joachim was first violin. The idols of her youth, 
Beethoven and Goethe, illuminated the evening of her 
days. She remained faithful to them, not as the guard- 
ian of their graves, but as the ministrant to the im- 
mortal flame of their lives. She had two ardent dis- 
ciples in her eldest daughters, Armgart and Gisela, 
both artists like their mother; they were painters, es- 
pecially Gisela, who married Hermann Grimm; they 
were musicians, Armgart especially, whom Joachim 
admired; Gisela also wrote for the stage. All three 

= 187 

were eager to succour the downtrodden and to wel- 
come the champions of rebellion. Mother and daugh- 
ters alike bore on their foreheads the trace of the blood 
which Berlichingen and Egmont shed for the freedom 
of the people. 





The Marseillaise became known throughout Germany 
almost as soon as in France. It was first sung in Sep- 
tember, 1792, five months after the War Hymn for the 
Rhine Army was composed at Strasbourg on the night 
after the news of the declaration of war (April 25, 
1792). This was a few weeks after the revolutionaries 
of Marseilles had spread it through Paris (about 
August 10th). It was sung, not during the battle of 
Valmy, but a few days after, on the order of the 
Minister for War, as a Te Deum of solemn thanksgiv- 
ing. The heir to the throne of Prussia, who had heard 
it in the course of the negotiations which resulted in 
the retirement of the German army, expressed a desire 
for the music and received one of the copies sent from 
Paris to Kellermann 252 (Comp. Revue La Revolution 
Francaise November-December, 1918; an article by 


192 = 

Julien Tiersot commenting upon extracts from the un- 
published memoirs of General Beaufort). After Jem- 
mapes, where the Marseillaise made its first appearance 
on the battle-field, Kotzebue apostrophized the author 
as follows: "Brute, barbarian, how many of my 
brothers have you not slain?" The saying seems to have 
been taken up and repeated by Klopstock in another 
form. According to a German tradition, Klopstock 
visited Rouget de Lisle in Hamburg in 1797, and ex- 
pressed his admiration of this war song, the inspiration 
of armies. "You are a terrible man; you have cut to 
pieces 50,000 honest Germans" (Brockbaus Konver- 
sations-Lexikon. 9th and 10th editions, 1853: on the 
words Marseillaise and Rouget de Lisle. N. B. — The 
editions of the B. K. Lexikon of the first forty years of 
the century do not mention the Marseillaise) . 

Goethe mentions it on three occasions in his history 
of the Siege of Mainz. It is remarkable that only once 
in these three passages does he refer to the Marseillaise, 
which was performed by the French garrison when 
they left Mainz, as being a striking piece of music. On 
the other two occasions it was played with tf Ca ira" by 
the oboes of the German regiments to enliven Goethe's 
guests "while they emptied bottles of champagne." At 
the dinner tables in hotels the guests asked for it to be 
played, "and all those present seemed pleased and satis- 

= 193 
fied with it." This shows that the Germans generally 
looked upon it as a lively air and took no notice of 
the words. 

A curious example of this has been pointed out to 
me by Professor Max Friedlaender. Ever since 1804, 
part of the melody of the Marseillaise had spread 
through Germany, becoming acclimatized as a popular 
song, which was soon a great favourite. It had become 
nothing more or less than a romantic highwayman's 
song — Rinaldo Rinaldini, in eleven verses. 

T-nr l M i 'f i il i if : T F i 

5 # m( w .»wu..4tr'U*nKwi— ,*^«- w-fyfhi** fa> ♦ 

*> — ' — — " >*■ . ...#»• . c. 

But it was none other than Goethe's brother-in-law, 
Christian August Vulpius, who had introduced the 
words of this song into his romance Rinaldo Rinaldini, 
in 1799. In 1804 an unknown composer added the 
melody which is still sung by the German people of 
our present day (Volkslieder von der Mosel und der 
Soar. Halle, 1896, No. 336, published by Kohler & 
Meier). It is, however, very questionable whether 

194 ^= 

Goethe, or Vulpius himself, recognized the Marseil- 
laise in this new form. As we have seen earlier in this 
book, 253 it was the minor passage in the Marseillaise 
which impressed it on Goethe's mind, while in the 
popular song of the brave highwayman only the major 
tune was used. 

The fine character of the Marseillaise was not really 
appreciated by German musicians till after 1830. 

The Gallic cock under the threefold motto of the 
Revolution aroused from sleep the national hymn 
which had been put aside or suppressed under the Em- 
pire and the Restoration. 254 It is known that Schumann 
used the Marseillaise three times: in 1839, in the 
Viennese Carnival, in which he concealed it under the 
guise of a 3-4 time handler, because the song itself 
was banned by Metternich; in 1840 in the famous song, 
Heine's Two Grenadiers (the poem was set to music 
that same year also by Wagner, in Paris, with the same 
use of the Marseillaise); in 1851 in the overture to 
Hermann und Dorothea. 

How Beethoven would have been struck by this 
music, so closely akin to his! The impression would 
have been far more powerful than in Schumann's case. 
It would have floated like an ensign above some mighty 
work of his. Must he not have heard it on his journey 
from Bonn to Vienna in November, 1792, when he 

= 195 

crossed the French lines? Did not the Marseillaise 
reach Austria and force an entry into his deaf ears ? The 
researches of Professor Max Friedlaender among the 
newspapers and musical publications in Austria, dur- 
ing the first half of the nineteenth century, have re- 
vealed nothing. But in any case Beethoven had had 
relations in Vienna with great musicians who, like 
Cherubini, had played a large part in the orchestral 
and choral art of the French Revolution, and it is stated 
that Salieri, whom Beethoven had known since boy- 
hood and who was a well-known authority in Vienna, 
used the Marseillaise in one of his works called Pal- 
mira, in 1795. The question may never be answered. 
But I am inclined to think that had he known it, he 
would have spoken of it and that one of his composi- 
tions would have shown its traces. 





Emotion and subconscious impulses, which in all arts 
and sciences are the source of the supernatural, 256 have, 
in the case of music, reached the highest point. This is 
a matter into which no one, as it seems, would wish to 
probe deeply. We always find, in the background, the 
mediocrity of the pedants; it is an annihilating force. 257 
All of them desire to express themselves by reasoning 
in music, [and the quintessence of music is that 
it begins at the precise point where reason ends]. 258 
These people, in all good faith and simple-minded- 
ness, believe that expression by reason is possible, and 
unconsciously employ magic formulas. In some cases 
only half of these are used; in others the end of the 
formula is used, before the beginning; so that, instead 
of being full of life and brilliance, as they were once, 
the compositions become fixed, frozen, and unutterably 


200 ^= 

Yet, in our hearts a secret stirring is felt; it comes 
and goes, it disappears again, without betraying its 
origin. Then, in a moment, genius, hidden for so long 
in the disorder of chaos, growing and developing, step 
by step, breaks forth in all its splendour. . . . [Bee- 
thoven]. Such is the condition of music today. In this 
art, genius is always alone, always misunderstood, for 
it has sought its own path, not, in the full light of day, 
but almost unconsciously, almost without knowledge of 

Many men must be born before a genius appears. 
And on the other hand, genius must have an active 
and persistent influence on mankind. 259 Otherwise it 
would not be genius. Without a public there would be 
no music. 

How keen a delight it is to see, as through a crystal 
glass, into past centuries, and watch how intelligence 
governs work, guides its accomplishment, and gives im- 
pulse to the spirit of man. ... In music that will 
never be again. The flame which now burns no more 
had its own temple, and that temple is in ruins. Now 
it is not in our intelligence, but in our hearts, 260 in our 
own individual temperament, that the spirit of music 
must be heard. But where is the musician who can keep 
himself so innocent, so pure that he will only feel, 
and express — what is Good ? 

= 201 

How strange is the destiny of the language of music, 
that it should not be understood! Hence the reason for 
the furious outcries against everything that has not 
been heard before — not only because it is not under- 
stood, but also because it is not even known. Man, 261 
in the presence of music, becomes rigid like a block of 
wood. 202 What he knows he is prepared to endure, not 
because he understands it, but because he is used to it, 
as a donkey is used to its daily load. Never yet have I 
met anyone who did not turn away from music, weary 
and depressed, after he had listened to it for a certain 
time. This is a necessary consequence which it is easier 
to understand than the contrary. What else can a man 
do who has vast ambitions, 263 if he does not first rid 
himself of all these mere artisans of music, 264 if he does 
not live his own life with which no other man may 
interfere? . . . He may well "make" music, but he 
will never set the spirit free from the letter and from 
the law. Every art claims that it outlives death and 
leads man to realms that are not of this earth; but there, 
wherever the Philistines mount guard, man stands in 
his humiliation with the cropped head of a slave. What 
should be freedom of will, freedom of life, becomes a 
mere piece of machinery. 205 We may wait, and believe, 
and hope — but nothing will happen. We cannot reach 
the heights save by paths now deeply buried in the 

202 ^^ 

sand; our salvation must be by prayer, by the concen- 
tration of the heart, and by keeping our faith for ever 
in our God. Here we face the inaccessible peaks, yet it 
is only upon their summit that we may inhale with 
rapture the breath of our desire. 5 




1 It seems most appropriate to put Beethoven's letter "To the 
Immortal Beloved" into the year 1812 (see my article in Henry 
Pruniere's Revue Muskale, October 1, 1927). 

2 "To thank you for the long time I have known you (for I 
have known you since my childhood's days) is so little for so great 
a gift . . ." (Beethoven's letter to Goethe, April 12, 1811.) 

3 Conversation with Rochlitz, July, 1822. 

4 In the same year appeared the first part of Faust. But Bettina 
had forestalled him in this plan. Ever since mid January, 1808, she 
was "submerged" {vet sunken) in Faust composition. She wrote 
Marguerite's moving "Prayer to the Virgin." Beethoven was looking 
for some one to adapt Faust for the theatre {Cottasches Morgen- 
blatt, October, 1808). But he can find no one to help him. In 
1822, when Rochlitz, who knew nothing of the original project, 
sends Beethoven the proposal of the Editor Haertel that he should 
write the music for Faust, "Ha!" cries Beethoven, his arms on high. 
"That would be a task! That should be something worth doing . . ." 
And he meditates upon it. But at his age, he can do no more; he is 
engaged on the work of the two great symphonies and of an 
oratorio. With regret he declines the proposal. 

5 The German phrase is so rich in accumulated energy that in a 
translation it must be expanded, so that nothing may be lost. 
"Ausladen . . . von . . . nach . . . hin . . ." suggest a torrential 
discharge, but a discharge directed upon a mark. It is the expression 
both of the will and of the power of nature. 

• It is worth noting that Bettina, who quotes these words, is 
personally of a very different opinion; she says that music adds 
nothing to Goethe's Lieder. Her account, therefore, bears all the 
more the stamp of authenticity. 


206 = 

7 Further on in this book will be found a short essay on her 
psychological life. 

8 This refers to the comparison between the authentic letters, 
which have been discovered recently, and the edited letters which 
Bettina published in 1835, after the death of Beethoven and Goethe 
(Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde). I mention particularly 
Dr. Waldemar Oehlke's philological thesis Bettina von Arnim's 
Briefromane, 1905, Bettinas Briefwechsel mit Goethe, compared 
with the originals and published in 1922 by Reinhold Steig, and 
Bettinas Leben und Briefwechsel mit Goethe, published by Fritz 
Bergemann, 1927. 

9 Let us begin by establishing exactly the age and the moral con- 
dition of our three heroes at this epoch of 1810. Goethe was sixty- 
one. He had at last married, in October, 1806, Christiana, with 
whom he had been living for eighteen years, and whom he had 
much trouble even then to get the society of Weimar to receive. His 
son August was seventeen. Four years later (in September, 1814) he 
was to meet Marianna von Willemer, and a new spring to blossom 
in his heart, immortalized in the Westostlicher Divan. At the time 
of which we are speaking he seemed to be enveloped in his distrust 
of the new spirit of the age and of the younger generation; he was 
engrossed in the official order of things and in the tenets of respecta- 
bility. We shall see this only too well in the pages which follow. 

Beethoven was forty. He was in the prime of life, flaming with 
passions. He had just composed the "Appassionata," the "Farewell" 
Sonata (Lebewohl), The Harp Quartet, the E. Flat Concerto, and 
was writing Egmont. Bettina found him smarting from a recent love 
disappointment; he was still madly in love with Theresa Malfatti. 
He saw the foolishness of it, flogging himself with the whip of his 
bitter irony. Bettina's advent was to him a deliverance. Bettina was 
twenty-five and looked much younger. She was born in Frankfurt in 
1785, the daughter of the beautiful Maximiliana La Roche, whom 
the young Goethe once loved, and of the merchant Brentano, who 
was twenty years older than her mother. The mother was a Protestant 

= 207 

and a native of the Rhine Provinces; the father was a Catholic and 
of Italian origin. Her mother died when Bettina was eight, and her 
father when she was twelve. Educated first in a convent, and then 
among Protestants, she had always a mystical tendency, without, 
however, being able to connect it with any religion. Her brilliant 
natural gifts of art and poetry were tenderly nursed by one of her 
brothers, Clemens; in 1807 she formed a friendship with one of her 
brother's friends, the young nobleman and poet Achim von Arnim, 
whom she married in 1811. But the great event in her life was her 
passion for Goethe, which began in 1806 (of this I shall speak- 
later on). She became the bosom friend of Goethe's mother, and 
through her she succeeded at last in meeting Goethe in 1807. From 
that moment she belonged to him until her death. 

10 Napoleon, who met her about the year 1809, asked, "Who is 
this fuzzy young person with fiery eyes?" (Draft of an unpublished 
letter by Bettina.) 

We must not forget, as a background to our word-picture, the god 
of war and his conflagrations . . . Jena. . . . The year 1809 is 
crimson with the glare of blood-stained skies. In August, 1809, 
Bettina wrote to Goethe, "During the whole summer the flames of 
war have reddened my horizon." 

11 Alois Bihler, a student at the University of Landshut, was intro- 
duced into the family circle of Professor de Savigny, and there met 
Savigny's sister-in-law, Bettina. They spent part of the summer of 
1810 together at Bukowan in Bohemia, on a property belonging to 
the Brentanos. Both were great music-lovers. Bihler taught Bettina 
harmony. The creative genius of this woman filled him with admira- 
tion: "She improvises poems while singing, and she sings while 
improvising, with a marvellous voice" ("Singend dichtete sie und 
dicbtend sang sie mit prachtvoller Stimme"). "A magnificent con- 
tralto voice," wrote her granddaughter, Mme. Irene Forbes-Mosse. 
... A month after her meeting with Beethoven, on the 9th of 
July, Bettina wrote to Bihler, and this authentic letter is the most 
reliable basis on which we can build the story of this meeting. (See 

208 ^^ 

Albert Leitzmann: Beethoven und Bettina. Deutsche Revue, Febru- 
ary 1918.) 

12 On December 13, 1809, Wilhelm Grimm was lunching at 
Goethe's house, and was told by the latter that he had received 
Bettina's portrait by Louis Grimm (a beautiful picture which is re- 
produced in Fritz Bergemann's book) ; he praised it highly and ex- 
pressed great joy. Wilhelm Grimm said that Bettina did not think 
the portrait very good. Goethe replied, "Yes, she is a dear child! 
Who could do justice to her? If Lucas Kranach were still alive, he 
would be equal to the task." 

13 In Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (1835). 

14 " ... A magnificent garden, full of flowers; all the glass 
houses were wide open ; the scent of the flowers was overwhelming. 
. . . Beethoven stood in the burning sunshine, and said ..." 
(May 28). 

"A bunch of lilies of the valley fills my little room with its elusive 
perfume . . ." (May 15th). 

And Beethoven's letter, perhaps not authentic (August), ". . . In 
our little observatory, during the splendid May rain, when I learned 
to know you ..." 

15 In her letter to Bihler, she wrote A Fantasy . . . No doubt it 
was the Sonata quasi una fantasia, op. 27, no. 2 (The Moonlight 
Sonata) . 

16 Her letter to Bihler describes both the house and the host: "In 
the first room, two or three pianos, without legs, on the floor ; some 
chests, a rickety chair. In the second room, his bed: a straw mattress 
and a thin blanket; a wash basin on a deal table; his nightshirt is 
thrown on the floor." Beethoven kept her waiting; he was just 
shaving. (From this we can see that Bettina has embellished her 
entrance as described in her book published in 1835, quoted above.) 
He is small, dark, his face covered with pock marks, ugly but with 
a magnificent forehead — "a noble vault, a masterpiece!" — very long 
black hair which he brushed back. Much younger than his age, "one 
would take him to be not more than thirty" ; he says he is thirty-five 

= 209 

and does not remember when he was born. — Within a quarter of an 
hour they are intimate friends. — He is sitting on the edge of a chair, 
by the piano, on which one of his hands is wandering softly. Then, 
suddenly, he forgets everything round him; he is engulfed "in an 
ocean (Weltmeer) of harmony . . ." This whole account is of a 
life-like precision; we can feel that it was written under the imme- 
diate impression, with perfect spontaneity. 

17 The word "electricity" recurs often in her conversation with 

18 I have no wish to repeat here this magnificent conversation. 
It requires separate study and careful criticism. It abounds in flashes 
of genius, bursting through a cloud of mystical dreams, flashes 
which were generated in Bettina by that lonely visionary whom she 
had interrupted in the midst of his creative work. I shall limit my- 
self to the undisputed facts. 

19 "Heute war wieder ubles Wetter" ("The weather is bad 
again today"). Beethoven, in his grumbling way, made this sarcastic 
remark to Schindler, in the letter in which he broke off their rela- 
tions in May, 1824. 

20 ". . . In all that concerns his art he is so sincere and so mas- 
terful (herrschend) that no other artist dares go near him. But in 
the other things of life he is so simple that people can do with him 
what they like. They laugh at him and his absent-mindedness; they 
take advantage of him; he rarely has enough money for his bare 
necessities. His friends and his brothers suck him dry (aufzehren) . 
. . . His clothes are torn, his appearance is always tattered (zer- 
lumpt). And yet he gives the impression of grandeur and majesty 
{Seine Erscheinung is bedeutend und herrlich). In his stubbornness 
he sees nothing of what is going on around him. While he is com- 
posing he is deaf to the world outside, his eyes are troubled, he is 
brimming with harmony, insensible to impressions from without; 
all ties between him and the rest of the world are broken, he lives 
in the profoundest solitude. If you speak to him at some length, 
and wait for an answer, he suddenly bursts into inarticulate sounds 

210 ^= 

(er bricht plotzlich in Tone aus), takes his paper and begins to 
write. His first step, when composing, is to sketch a vast plan, and 
it is on the basis of this plan that his work is shaped and con- 

There is no need for me to dwell on the interest of such a de- 
scription, which has never before been used by Beethoven's biog- 
raphers. Bettina expresses herself here with perfect sincerity, and 
without a thought for the public, in the first impulse of her gen- 
erous heart: 

"Why do I write all this to you, in so much detail? Because I 
know that he is being wronged, because people are too mean to 
understand him, because I feel that I must describe him as he 
really is. . . . He is extremely kind to all who confide in him 
on musical matters, even to the weakest beginners. He is never tired 
of giving them advice and help, this man who is so jealous of his 
freedom. . . ." 

21 Bettina published three letters which Beethoven wrote to her: 
they are dated August 11, 1810, February 10, 1811, and July of 
August, 1812. The original of the second only has been found. 
This was fortunate for Bettina because otherwise the critics, who 
generally were ill-disposed towards her, would have declared that 
Beethoven's friendship for her existed only in her imagination. It 
so happens that her second letter is not the least affectionate of the 
three. As far as I am concerned I am not casting any doubt on the 
authenticity of the first letter which mentions intimate matters (an 
unhappy love affair) which Bettina could not have known from 
other sources. This letter is, besides, in typical Beethoven style. As 
for the third letter, the question is different. I shall speak of it 

22 Bettina's letter to Bihler. 

23 So bricht er plotzlich in Tone aus ("He suddenly bursts into 
sounds"). Bettina's letter to Bihler. 

24 In my other essay on Bettina in this book I shall show how at 

z = 211 

a later stage in her political career she was a heroine of justice and 
the champion of all die oppressed. 

25 "J a, Dir moge ich alles sagen; es ist so viel und auch so wenig. 
. . . Alle Wahrheit ist dem Menschen zu schwer. . . . Was soil 
ich Dir sagen? der Du alles weist — und weist wie wenig die Worte 
dem innern Sinn gehorcben, dass sie ihn wahrhaft andeuten mogen 
. . ." ("Yes, I would tell you everything; it is so much and yet so 
little. . . . All truth weighs so heavily on us human beings. . . . 
What am I then to tell you, who already know all? You know how 
powerless are words to convey the inner meaning"). 

20 Literally: "The whole world rises and falls around him, as 
. . ." This enigmatic and curiously worded sentence becomes clear 
through the letter published in 1835, in which she enlarged on 
it: "Das ganze menschliche Treiben geht wie ein Uhrwerk an ihm 
auf und nieder, er allein erzeugt frei aus sich das Ungeahnte, Uner- 
schaffene . . ." ("Just as the mechanism of a clock centres upon 
an axis, so does every form of human activity center upon him: he 
alone of himself, unchecked, brings to birth what has never before 
existed, the unimagined"). 

"He alone." ... It is as if Bettina, while writing the sentence 
in the original letter, felt instinctively that she could not write it to 
Goethe without offending him. So she left it unfinished. 

27 What did Goethe know of Beethoven in 1810? It seems that 
he had heard, for the first time, one of his works, on October 13, 
1807. A young singer, Henrietta Hassler, of Erfurt, who wanted to 
become a member of his private choir (see my essay "Goethe the 
Musician") sang to Goethe "a scene by Beethoven." Probably this 
was a scene from Fidelio the first performance of which had taken 
place in November, 1805, and the second, in the revised form, in 
April, 1806. 

28 I have come to the conclusion that Beethoven's thoughts ex- 
pressed by Bettina are not only far above Bettina's intelligence, but 
also far in advance of the spirit of the time, and that they represent 
the profoundest intuition of his creative genius. They certainly 

212 = 

emanate from Beethoven, but the impression which they made was 
far less clear in the young Bettina of 1810 than they became later, 
after long reflection, in the Bettina of 1835. An authentic letter 
from Bettina to Goethe (Christmas, 1810), full of her obscure and 
passionate thoughts on music, shows how her little head (Kopf- 
cheri) is constantly working since she left Beethoven. At the time 
the impression which she had received was far greater than her 
perception; only very gradually did she understand the fulness of 
the treasure over which she had brooded so long. 

29 January 11, 1811. 

30 Conversation with Councillor von Muller, January 26, 1825 
(on the subject of Bettina). 

31 In the Briefwechsel of 1835 Bettina imagines that Goethe 
writes an amiable answer to her first letter on Beethoven, and 
praises her in a fatherly way for what she told him of this great 
man; he carefully avoids expressing any judgment on Beethoven, 
but he mentions very politely the hope that he will meet him some 
day. All this is very probably an exact reflection of what Goethe 
said, but never wrote, to Bettina. 

32 A hitherto unpublished document (a draft of a letter by Bet- 
tina), which I quote in the last essay in this book, page 171, 
proves that during these days at Teplitz this impression was not only 

33 His autobiography. 

34 Zelter had met Beethoven in Berlin in 1796; Beethoven, then 
twenty-six, had given several concerts there, especially at the Sing- 
akademie, when Zelter had been greatly impressed by his im- 

35 And at what a fatal moment! In September, 1812, just after 
the regrettable interview at Teplitz of which we shall speak later. 

30 ,f N ur die Toten sollen sie mir ruhen lassen unci Beethoven 
. . ." (Authentic letters from Bettina to Goethe, October 16th and 
November -1th, 1810.) 


37 In the remarkable letter of Christmas, 1810, which deserves a 
special note. I insert it as an appendix. 

38 This is not a literal translation, but it conveys the meaning: 
"Ein recht beschrankter Eigensinn" (An exceedingly stupid stub- 

39 "Wenn ich einen verlorenen Sohn hatte, so wollte ich lieber, 
er hatte sich von den Bordellen bis zum Schweinkoben verirrt, als 
doss er in den Narrenwust dieser letzten Tage sich verfiige; denn ich 
furchte sehr, aus dieser Holle ist keine Erlosung" (letter to Rein- 
hardt, quoted by Bergemann). 

40 He had told Bettina in his authentic letter of February 10, 
1811, of his intention to do so, asking her to recommend him to 
Goethe. Bettina did so, and very warmly, though rather late, on the 
1 lth of May, when Beethoven had already carried out his intention. 
But the dear girl was always lost in her dreams; days and weeks 
slipped by without her being aware of it. Let us remember, too, 
that just then she married (March 11th), and though this event 
was perhaps less important to her than her daydreams, it must 
surely have afforded her a certain distraction! 

41 The printing of the score was, however, delayed. Goethe re- 
ceived it only in January, 1812. , 

42 Das will alles umfassen und verliert sich daruber immer in's 
Elementarische, dock noch mit unendlichen Schonheiten im ein- 

43 "Auf der Kippe stehen," a vernacular expression implying the 
disdain of the wise man for the child who continues at play, un- 
aware of the coming fall. 

44 This authentic letter of the 11th of May, 1811, is a most valu- 
able example of Bettina's way of editing texts. She gives Goethe 
Beethoven's message. She does not attempt to transcribe it word for 
word. She expresses exactly the meaning of the words, but at the 
same time she tries to give them the form which would produce the 
effect desired by Beethoven; we might say that she transposes Bee- 
thoven's words into the key of Goethe, and does all she can to win 

214 == 

Goethe over to the cause of Beethoven. Once more, then, she shows 
herself to be a true and devoted friend ; knowing Goethe's weakness 
for adulation, she makes Beethoven say that he had composed his 
music to Egmont, for no other reason than that he loved him 
(Goethe), loved him with all his heart {die ich aus Liebe, aus 
meiner Liebe zu ihm gemacht habe). And she adds: "I will not 
speak evil of any man who calls himself your friend, though some 
do so from interested motives. But Beethoven is not one of these; 
his motives are quite unselfish. On him you have bestowed a great 
blessing ; he has interpreted you with all the might of a free nature, 
he is a living witness of your overwhelming power." 

She knew what she was saying, for she had heard the Egmont 
overture and raved over it: "Seine Ouverture aus Egmont ist so 
herrlich doss ich sie das beste mogte nennen" ("His overture to 
Egmont is so magnificent that I think it is the best music I ever 
heard"). I have no doubt that her letter was the determining cause 
of Goethe's cordial reply to Beethoven. 

45 Let us add that at Karlsbad he met Prince Lichnowsky and 
Prince Kinsky, Beethoven's protectors, and only such sponsors could 
persuade him to hold out his hand to the "peasant from the 

46 This can be seen from the awkward way in which he writes to 
Beethoven: His music has been mentioned to him by several peo- 
ple, with much praise. . . . He has never heard his music per- 
formed by artists and by distinguished amateurs without wishing 
that he could admire Beethoven himself at the piano, and enjoy 
his extraordinary talent. It almost seems that he looks upon Bee- 
thoven merely as a virtuoso of the piano. Yet the music to Egmont 
had been performed in Germany for over a year (the first perform- 
ance was in Vienna on the 24th of May, 1810). Goethe knows 
nothing of it. 

47 On January 23rd, 1812, he makes the following entry in his 
diary: "Abends, van Beethovens Aiusik zu Egmont" ("In the 
evening Beethoven's music to Egmont"). And on the 20th of Feb- 

z ?1* 

ruary: "In the morning Herr von Boyneburg played Beethoven's 
composition to Egmont. He dined with us. After dinner, continua- 
tion of the music." 

48 This was Christiana's spelling, as she pronounced the name. 

4U Christiana, in her intimate effusions to her husband, used to 
address him as "My dear good Privy Councillor." 

00 Bettiuas Leben und Briejwechsel mit Goethe, by Fritz Berge- 
mann. 1927. 

51 "Zum Sehen geboren, "I was born to see, 

Zum Schauen bestellt Destined to contemplate 

Gefallt mir die Welt. And I like this world. 

Ihr gliicklichen Augen, Oh, ye happy eyes, 

Was je ihr geseh'n, Whatever you have seen, 

Es sei wie es wolle, Be it what it may 

Es war doch so schon." It was so beautiful!" 

(Written in May, 1831, when Goethe was in his eighty-second 
year. ) 

52 This was not Christiana's fault. She was always her own simple, 
loyal, and outspoken self. Her recently published correspondence 
shows that she was lovable in spite of her vulgarity. Had she done 
nothing but inspire Goethe to write Das Bliimchen, the modest and 
tender poem of 1813, which he gave her at their silver wedding, 
she would still be dear to Goethe's real friends. While she lived 
Goethe could rely on a steadfast affection. After she had gone he 
felt very lonely, very lost, in his domestic life. Behind the imposing 
facade of these last years was hidden great sadness and utter distress. 
His majestic mental balance was only resumed when he turned to 
his work, when he made his daily appearance before the world, when 
he was "on show." But how feeble he was in his private life, a weak- 

216 ^= 

ness of which his lucid mind was fully aware. Beethoven, like him 
supreme in his art, was no more master of his life than Goethe: 
his weakness seemed even more pronounced. He was less able to 
disguise it, and his character was more unbalanced. Beethoven was 
made of a tougher stuff, but the great man of Weimar was, after all, 
not the weaker of the two. 

53 Bettina's first letter, in which she revived the correspondence, 
was written on the 28th of July, 1817, after Christiana's death. 

54 She was the great-granddaughter of the Leonora d'Este whom 
Tasso immortalized. 

55 The Emperor Francis, the Empress of Austria, the Empress 
Marie-Louise of France, the King of Saxony, and a bevy of dukes 
and grand dukes — all the illustrious people of Germany and Austria. 

56 July 14, 1812. During these days Beethoven was exceptionally 
excited. It is quite possible that he had written the famous letter 
To the Immortal Beloved during the preceding week. Many facts 
taken together go to prove that the passionate encounter took place 
on the road between Prague and Teplitz. 

57 July 17, 1812: letter to little Emily M. of H., who had writ- 
ten him a complimentary letter. 

58 Goethe had arrived on the 14th. 

59 Others read the word Zusammengeraffter (literally, "pulled 
together"), which is even more emphatic. 

60 It is exceedingly difficult to translate this, because the words 
are extraordinarily comprehensive. Zusammengefasster, and still 
more Zusammengeraffter, convey the enormous tension of power to 
concentrate, while inniger describes "interior" depths of feeling. 
Goethe adds, "I understand why he needs must adopt an extraor- 
dinary attitude towards the world" ("Ich begreife recht gut, wie er 
gegen die Welt wunderlich stehen muss"). This, too, is an impor- 
tant admission by Goethe. (Letter to Christiana July 19, 1812.) 

81 One of them, from Bettina to Prince Piickler-Muskau, of 
1832; the other from Beethoven to Bettina. They were published 
by her after both Beethoven and Goethe were dead. They seem to 

= 217 

be two similar versions of one and the same letter, and this has led 
to a controversy, as to which of the two gave rise to the other. 
However, to us one is as valuable as the other. It has been objected 
that at the end of Bettina's letter she mentions that immediately 
after the incidents which I shall describe later, Beethoven came "to 
tell us all about it" and that this would have made unnecessary 
Beethoven's description of what happened, contained in his letter 
to Bettina, which was sent the next day. But "us" may mean, in 
Bettina's absence, her husband, Arnim, and her sister, Mme. de 
Savigny. And Beethoven, who was anxious to tell the story per- 
sonally to Bettina, may have written to her on the next day. It is 
true that Beethoven's letter was addressed from Teplitz in August, 
1812, whereas in August he was no longer in Teplitz, but in Karls- 
bad or Franzensbrunn, and that the quarrel at Teplitz occurred in 
July. But twenty years later, when Bettina found Beethoven's un- 
dated letter, she may have added one from memory, as she was 
accustomed to do. The presence of Archduke Rudolph during those 
days, which is mentioned in the letter ("der Herzog Rudolf hat 
mir den Hut abgezogen") — "the Archduke Rudolf lifted his hat to 
me," has also been questioned. But here again it is possible that 
Bettina wished to complete Beethoven's letter, and in good faith 
filled in the name which he had left out. In any case, it is proved 
beyond all doubt — it has never, in fact, been contested — that she 
was in Teplitz at that time, and that Beethoven confided his trou- 
ble to her. Her testimony is of the greatest importance. I may add 
that of the two documents, Bettina's letter is more complete and 
tells us far more, although Beethoven's letter contains one of the 
finest sayings that he ever uttered. It would have required a second 
Beethoven to invent it. 

62 Goethe's diary. 

* 3 As soon as the news of the Arnims' arrival in Teplitz had reached 
her in Karlsbad, she wrote to her husband, insisting that he should 
not receive them. Goethe, in his reply of August 5th, with that do- 
mestic cowardice common to those who want peace at home at any 

218 ^^ 

price, calmed his jealous wife by referring to the Arnims in most 
disrespectful terms. 

64 It is significant that Bettina's arrival and Beethoven's visit to 
her coincide with the latter' s last meeting with Goethe. After July 
23 rd they never met again. 

65 Note the contemptuous meaning which Beethoven gives the 
word "romantic." 

66 Beethoven's letter to Bettina is couched in even stronger terms: 
"I told Goethe what a great effect discriminating approval has upon 
us, and how one longs to be heard with understanding by one's 
equal {doss man von seines Gleichen mit dem Verstand angehort 
werden will). Emotion is fit for womenfolk (forgive the words). 
But man — why, music must strike sparks from his mind (Dem 
Mann muss Music Feuer aus dem Geiste schlagen)." 

We find the same contempt for sentimentality in his first conver- 
sation with Bettina in May, 1810. He thanked her for praising his 
music in terms which were without emotion, real or feigned. He is 
glad to hear her merry applause (heiteren Beifall). "Most people," 
says he, "are moved by something beautiful, but they are not artisti- 
cally minded; artists burst into flames, not tears." 

67 Goethe shared this opinion. When in 1800 young Count Wolf 
Baudissin told him that for the sake of Bach he would be willing 
"to live, languish, and suffer," Goethe replied coldly, "In Art 
there is no such thing as suffering (Von Leiden k'onne ja bei der 
Kunst keine Rede sein)." This shows that in past days, he, in his 
turn, could have taught Beethoven a lesson. But his physical emotion 
often gave the lie to his reasoning. Tears would often rise to his 
eyes when he read aloud: then he would throw the book down 
angrily. He was annoyed at being so moved by the beauty of the 
passage. When Zelter, for the first time, played his Lieder in the 
presence of Goethe and Schiller, he was astounded to see the violent 
expression of their feeling. They "acted the Songs," marched up and 
down, gesticulating. 

88 I am following here the text of Bettina's letter to Puckler- 

= 219 

Muskau, which is not so well known as Beethoven's letter to Bet- 
tina. The lattet is quoted, in part, in my short Life of Beethoven. 

69 This can be completed by Beethoven's letter to Bettina (it does 
not matter whether it was written by Beethoven himself or by Bet- 
tina from her notes of what he had told her) . 

"One must be what one would appear to be!" Beethoven is said 
to have told Goethe {"Man muss sein was man scheinen will"). 

And he goes on: "I gave him a good talking-to, and showed him 
no mercy. I reproached him with all his sins, especially towards 
you, my dear Bettina." 

This is a proof that Bettina had told Beethoven how vexed and 
grieved she was, and that this contributed to Beethoven's severity 
towards Goethe. Perhaps there is also a trace of jealousy in the fol- 
lowing passage: "God! if only I could have had as good a time with 
you as that one (wie der) enjoyed. Believe me, I would have done 
greater, far greater things!" 

The letter contains other interesting details which have since 
turned out to be correct and which are usually omitted. Goethe is 
shown coaching the empress in a theatrical part, and Beethoven 
refusing, in his grumbling fashion, to help with his music. We also 
see Goethe and his grand duke, enthusiastic (verliebt) over Chinese 
porcelain, and Beethoven, quaintly attributing this craze, which 
seemed to him absurd, to the unbalanced spirit of the time "in 
which reason has no longer the 'upper hand.' " Beethoven always 
quotes reason when he attacks Goethe. "But," he concluded, "I take 
no share in all these follies of theirs." 

70 With what keen intelligence did Goethe, who was not musical, 
appreciate the fact that Beethoven's musical powers were not af- 
fected by his deafness. He saw that the man only, not the artist, 
was stricken. 

71 The sight, not the thought of death. It goes without saying 
that a man of Goethe's intellectual and moral calibre never feared 
the thought of death. He often speaks of it, and we find many ref- 
erences to it in his Conversations. It will suffice to mention the 

220 = 

splendid reverie prompted by the death of Wieland on January 25, 
1813, and which Falk described at length. Generally speaking, 
Goethe set against the idea of entire dissolution his firm belief in 
the indestructibility of the spirit (among twenty other examples, 
see the conversation with Eckermann on May 2, 1824). "At the 
age of seventy-five, one is bound to think of death. This thought 
leaves me unperturbed because I am firmly convinced that our spirit 
is indestructible and progresses from eternity to eternity. . . ." 

In considering death, it was not so much the idea of final anni- 
hilation which troubled him, as the strange conception that the 
surviving spiritual entity might be attacked by another grosser and 
more powerful spiritual being which would subjugate it. (See the 
conversation with Falk, in which Goethe, overwrought by his recent 
bereavement, abandoned his usual reserve on such subjects and 
spoke aloud to himself, as if hallucinated.) 

What I am concerned with here is the repellent effect which the 
sight of death and of the dead always had on Goethe. This was a 
constant obsession of his, and there are many proofs of it. He 
himself spoke of it to Wilhelm von Humboldt: "Daher sehe ich 
kerne To ten" ("That is why I will not look on any dead man"), 
December 3, 1808. He gives all kinds of poetical reasons for this. 
He compares life to light. When life has departed, when the sun 
has set, there remains only "das Grau des Stoffes (the greyness of 
substance) ." His reason for refusing to see in death those whom he 
knew in life is that if he were to look upon their bodies he would 
feel that they were for ever "verblichen und verschwunden (faded 
and vanished)." 

This explanation is no doubt correct, but it is partial: it does not 
give us all that was in his subconscious mind. But whatever the 
reason may be, the fact remains that Goethe avoided the spectacle 
of death. In Goethe, by Emil Ludwig, there is an account of the 
death of one of Goethe's friends, the Minister of State von 
Voigt, and the tender, poignant letter of the dying man; twenty- 
four hours later he was dead, just a few steps from Goethe's house. 

= 221 

Goethe, who lacked the courage to visit him, had calmly replied to 
his letter. . . . Another who well knew his aversion to death was 
Frau von Stein. On her deathbed she gave instructions that her 
funeral was not to pass before her good friend's house. During the 
funeral Goethe stayed at home, reading Victor Hugo and Hunting in 
Mongolia. . . . But when an intimate friend came to describe the 
ceremony, he burst into tears. 

Let us not, therefore, be hard in our judgment. Do not let us 
accuse him of lack of feeling. Who has ever explored the depth of 
his sorrows? Let us rather read once more the immortal plaint, in 
Wilhelm Meister, of the Harpist. 

72 At the age of eighty, he said, "Wollte ich mich ungehindert 
gehen lassen, so lage es wohl in mir, mich selbst und meine Um- 
gebung zu Grunde zu richten (If I were to let myself go, without re- 
straint, I should bring to utter ruin not only myself, but all those 
near and dear to me)." 

73 "Was euch nicht angehort, miisset ihr meiden, was euch das 
Innere stort, durft ihr nicht leiden" (You must shun what does not 
concern you: you cannot endure that which disturbs your inner 

74 Let us add that Goethe at that time was flirting assiduously 
with the first lady-in-waiting, Countess O'Donnell, and was very 
busy writing her love letters and poems. 

73 Letter to Breitkopf, August 9, 1812. 

76 Und jreute sich ganz kindisch dass er Goethen so geneckt habe. 

77 They were not alone in this. At that time Goethe was showing 
an exaggerated respect for those in high position, and their victo- 
ries. He had just praised the Empress of France and the continental 
blockade. German patriots rose in revolt against this, and popular 
irony avenged itself by calling Goethe's wife "Frau Abstinental- 

7H When he returned to his home in Weimar he found Zelter's 
rude letter which was so insulting to Beethoven, and which I have 

222 ^= 

mentioned already (see page 24) . Considering Goethe's disposition, 
it must have had a deadly effect on him. 

79 It was this likeness which fetched out the old bear from the 
solitude of his woods. "The wild man" (der wilde Mann) who 
refused all invitations came and played for Rahel one afternoon, but 
it was the deaf playing to the deaf; music meant very little to her. 

80 This remark was made by Kalischer {Beethoven und Berlin) . 
I have, however, found it to be correct by comparing it with 
Rahel' s writings, and was all the more surprised at it because she 
frequently mentions music and musicians, with the single exception 
of Beethoven. On the other hand her husband, Varnhagen, to whom 
she is the Law and the Prophets, expressed, up to 1812, a boundless 
admiration for Beethoven (letter to Uhland, 1811). From 1812 on 
he too is obediently silent. He stands aside and mentions him only 
in passing. 

81 But he is still unaware that Beethoven had written other music 
also to this work. 

82 On January 29, 1814, Egmont was at last performed with 
music for the first time in Weimar. Goethe enters in his diary, "In 
the evening, Egmont. . . ." 

He did not mention Beethoven's name. 

Again, while he spoke at length in his letters of the pleasure 
which he derived from Himmel's insignificant music to his Lieder, 
or from the compositions of titled nonentities like Count von Diet- 
richstein, Beethoven never received a single word of appreciation 
or blame, which he so ardently desired. It is also significant that 
while his correspondent, F. von Gentz, who sent him Dietrichstein's 
Lieder, added much praise of Beethoven's three beautiful Lieder to 
poems by Goethe, which were published at that time, Goethe in 
his reply praised the titled musician's work profusely and cere- 
moniously, but never so much as mentioned Beethoven's. 

83 Where was the discovery made ? He found his road to Damas- 
cus — oh, bitter irony! — in the weakest of Beethoven's compositions, 
the only wretched rhapsody among all that he wrote, the Schlacht- 

= 223 

symphonie, 1816 ("The Battle of Vittoria"). On hearing it, Zelter 
became greatly excited, threw his perruque in the air, and shouted: 
"Vivat Genius! And may the devil take all the critics! (und hoi' der 
Teufel alle Kritikl)" Nor was this all. The same ironical fate 
decreed that at the close of his life Zelter should go into raptures 
over the same "scandalous" Christ on the Mount of Olives, which 
he had described as being "pervertedly lustful." In 1831 this 
"shameless" work of old had become "soothing and charming, like 
the pleasant dream of a summer night." 

84 Marianna, who for two years had been a dancer, singer, and 
comedienne, at the theatre in Frankfurt, before marrying in 1814 the 
rich banker Willemer, twenty- four years older than herself; she 
was both poetess and musician; she was a good exponent of Mo- 
zart's Lie der, and had a profound understanding of the fine influ- 
ence of music, and of the relief it brings in sorrow — "was du erlebst 
in dir erneut und mild dir's nur gewtihrt, so dass was schwarzte, sich 
verklart, was jreute inniger erjreut." . . . "Music . . . gives new 
and milder forms to one's feelings, makes bright what was dark, 
and increases the joy of what is pleasant." 

85 June 26, 1821. 

86 July 12, 1821. 

87 His intuition of the music of the future is remarkable. One is 
not surprised to find that Lobe became one of the foremost German 
theoreticians of the next period. 

88 "That is the evil spirit which threatens you young fellows! You 
are ever ready to create new ideals, but how do you carry them into 
effect? Your principle, that each part in music must express some- 
thing, sounds very well. Yes, it seems as if it should have been recog- 
nized and practised long before by every composer, because it is 
sound reason. But whether the musical work of art lends itself to 
the use of this principle, and whether the enjoyment of music does 
not suffer through it, is a different question. You would do well not 
to be satisfied merely with thinking this out, but to experiment with 
it. In every form of art there are certain weaknesses connected with 


the fundamental idea, which must be allowed for in practice, be- 
cause if we disregard them we come too close to nature, and our 
art becomes inartistic (unkunstlerisch) ." 

This lesson of a master artisan is worthy of consideration. The 
inventors of theories on art, the "ists" of all times, would do well 
to take it to heart. Certainly no theory has any value unless proved 
in practice. But Goethe's practical tests were far too hasty, and as 
far as the present instance is concerned, were certainly biassed. 

89 On principle, Goethe was resolutely opposed to "speech with 
music" — to "melodrama" — and he said so on many occasions. See 
his conversation with W. von Humboldt, on December 3, 1808: 

"Gegen das Sprechen zur Musik erklarte sich Goethe so: Musik 
set die reine Unvernunft und die Sprache habe es nur mit der 
Vernunft zu thun (Music has nothing whatever to do with reason, 
while speech has to do with nothing but reason)." He referred to 
Schiller's bad habit of demanding music to accompany his speeches, 
as in the Maid of Orleans, but added that he. Goethe, had always 
been against it. Humboldt heard him on many occasions speak 
strongly on the same matter. (We shall return to this subject, 
which is well worth discussing; Goethe did not mean to deprive 
himself of music, but wanted to incorporate it in poetry which, as 
he said, was to him a superior kind of music. See Essay III in 
this book, "Goethe the Musician.") Goethe's admission in public, 
that the composer had "admirably understood his meaning" in 
Egmonfs monologue was in any case no small victory for 

90 It is he who gave the Sonata, op. 27, no. 2, the name "Moon- 
light Sonata." 

91 "The Councillor of State of Weimar, Schmidt, an ardent ad- 
mirer of Beethoven, played all his sonatas with much fire and 
facility (sic). He knew many of them by heart" (Rellstab). 

92 According to Max Friedlaender it was the manuscript of 
Wonne der Wehmut. 

= 225 

93 Frimmel, Beethovenstudien, II. 

94 Goethe had made a note, on May 21, 1822, that he had re- 
ceived them, and though he was so particular in matters of courtesy, 
he had no word of thanks for Beethoven. 

95 Theodore de Wyzewa, Beethoven and Wagner. The article 
on Beethoven and Goethe is puerile and full of mistakes. 

90 "The poor fellow is almost completely deaf. I could hardly 
restrain my tears." 

When in 1825 Zelter wrote to Beethoven, through Rellstab, who 
conveyed the letter, "it was written," said Rellstab, "in terms such 
as might be addressed to a saint in heaven." Beethoven was much 
moved by this, and deeply thankful. 

97 We cannot find any reference either in Rahel's profuse cor- 
respondence, which included all the intellectual and artistic horizon 
of Europe. We ought to make a list of those great German per- 
sonalities of the time, for whom Beethoven's death had no sig- 
nificance. And yet Beethoven's death created a considerable stir. 
The popular apotheosis on the occasion of Beethoven's funeral in 
Vienna reechoed triumphantly throughout the world. 

98 July 24, 1809. 

90 According to a note in his letter to Humboldt, Goethe's 
"Helena, klassisch-romantische Phantasmagorie, ein Intermezzo zu 
Faust . . /' was published during this year. This arbitrary inter- 
polation of an episode in Faust almost "deforms" the great work. 

ioo Goethe was evidently thinking of the orchestra performing the 
piece which Mendelssohn had played to him. But his astonishment 
gives his thoughts an extraordinary form. It is as if humanity as a 
whole was drawn into the whirlwind of the C Minor Symphony. 

101 1 have come to this conclusion by several different paths in 
the course of writing this essay. 

102 In the Conversation Notebook we see that after the visitor 
had left, Beethoven complained to Schindler of what he had said. 

103 Beethoven's memory is here at fault ; he should have said 

226 ^= 

"Teplitz." This is a further reason why Bettina must be excused 
when she gave the letter received from Beethoven in Teplitz the 
date of August instead of July, 1812. 

104 December, 1826. 

105 It was to Hummel that he addressed the two well-known notes, 
written one after the other in 1798: 

"Don't come to me again!" (Beethoven here used the third 
person, which at that time was used in Germany when speaking 
to a subordinate.) "You are a treacherous hound: the dog-catcher 
should be after you." 

"Dear friend of my heart! (Herzens Nazerl!) You are a loyal fel- 
low, and you were right ; I can see it now. So please come to me this 
afternoon. You will meet also Schuppanzigh and between the two 
of us we are going to give you a good roughing, pommelling and 
shaking (riiffeln, kniijfeln und schutteln), to your heart's content. 

"I hug you. Your Beethoven, alias 'Flour Basin' (Mehl- 

106 In 1829, speaking to Eckermann, Goethe went so far as to 
compare Hummel to Napoleon. "Napoleon controls the world as 
does Hummel his piano.' The two seem to us admirable in their 
mastery; how each contrives to do it we cannot tell, and yet it is 
so, and it has happened under our very eyes." April 7th. 

107 "I could hardly restrain my tears" (letter to Goethe, Septem- 
ber 14, 1819). In this letter Zelter refers to the extraordinary 
respect in which Beethoven was held in Vienna, in spite of all the 
criticism of his strange character. This testimony of high public 
esteem over Zelter's signature could not fail to impress Goethe, the 
Privy Councillor. 

108 w/ nat are we t0 think of Rochlitz's silence, when he wrote to 
Goethe, describing his voyage, without even mentioning Beethoven ? 
Many of Goethe's visitors had been directly or indirectly in touch 
with Beethoven — Louis Spohr, Emmanuel Alois Forster, etc. 

* Translator's Note. — Mehlschoberl in Viennese dialect means "Flour 
Basin" and is a nickname often given to stout persons. 

= 227 

100 ". . . Mir ist das All. icb bin mir selbst verloren, 
Der ich noch erst den Gottern Liebling war. 

Sle trennen mich, unci richten mich zu Grunde." 

("The world is lost to me, and lost my inner self, 
And yet I was once the darling of the gods. 

They sever me, and ruin me") 

— Elegie von Marienbad. Summer, 1823. 

110 When, later in life, he remembered this, he wept once more. 

in "N un a y er dock das eigentlich Wunderbarste! Die ungeheure 
Geualt der Musik auf mich in diesen Tagen! Die Stimme der Milder, 
das klangreiche der Szymanowska, ja sogar die ojfentlichen Exhibi- 
tionen der hiesigen Jagerkorps, falten mich auseinander wie man 
einen ge bailie Faust freundlich flach las si" ("And now the most 
wonderful thing of all! The enormous power which music has 
had over me lately! Milder's voice, Szymanowska's playing, even 
the public performances of the local infantry band — they all make 
me relax just as a man's fist, closed in anger, opens under a friendly 

112 Maria Szymanowska, nee Wotowska, was born in 1790. She 
died, still a young woman, in 1832, the same year as Goethe, at 
St. Petersburg. 

Was her musical talent outstanding? I have been fortunate in 
acquiring a private edition of her compositions, not mentioned by 
Eitner and Fetis. Twenty Exercises and Preludes for Pianoforte, 
composed and dedicated to Countess Chodkiewick by Mme. 
Szymanowska, nee Wotowska, First Edition, 47 engraved pages. 
These compositions are written in a fluent but somewhat nebulous 
style, which was no doubt the result of the influence of Field, whose 
pupil she had been, although both were almost the same age. Her 
style was, in a way, a forerunner of Mendelssohn, with here and 
there a touch of Schumann. The part for the right hand is light 

228 ^^ 

and graceful, that for the left hand is rudimentary only. It is char- 
acteristic that out of twenty pieces there is not a single one which 
is passionate or pathetic, allegro molto or adagio. Nearly all of 
them are a milder kind — moderato, scherzando, grazioso, con 
spirito, commodo. The only one which attempts to express 
"thought" or which, to use a simpler expression, approaches emo- 
tion, is the last, cantabile, where to our surprise we find a passage 
reminding us of an orchestral arrangement from Fidelio (O Go it! 
Welch ein Augenblick!) . Ariel's fingers do not trouble the old heart, 
too exposed to emotion and too fearful of it: they lull it to rest. 

113 Some one had proposed the toast, "Our memories." Goethe 
knocked on the table and said (the following is a short summary 
of his words) : "I do not like these words. The toast seems to 
imply that we have forgotten and that some outer event recalls 
our memories to us. Those things which are great and beautiful 
never leave us; they become part of ourselves; they bring forth in 
us a new and better 'ego': thus they go on living and creating 
within ourselves. It is not the past but the eternally new which 
our desires would have us seek; the new is itself the creation of 
ever-growing elements of the past. True longing (die echte Sehn- 
sucht) must always be productive (produktiv) and fashion a new 
and better self. . . . And," he adds, "this is precisely what we 
have felt during these last days. Our deepest, inmost self has been 
refreshed, refined, ennobled, by this glorious artist. No, she can 
never leave us, for she has passed into our most intimate selves and 
will for ever live within us. ..." 

114 Hiller gave an account of this later in his book, Aus dem 
Tonleben unserer Zeit, neue Folge 1868-71 (Contemporary Musi- 
cal Notes. New Series) . 

115 Hummel was so full of Beethoven's greatness that when in 
1830 he organized a series of concerts at popular prices at the 
Hoftheater in Weimar, he inaugurated them with the overture to 
Leonora and the Battle of Vittoria. 

110 The following is a definite indirect proof: J. J. Ampere and 

= 229 

Albert Stapfer called on Goethe about this time (the end of March 
or the beginning of April). They would also have liked to see 
Weimar's second celebrity, Hummel (these were their own words). 
But Hummel was still away. 

"The latter, for whom we also had a letter of introduction, had 
left for Vienna, to delight the ears of the Austrian public, and we 
hope very much that we shall meet him there. We have been . . . 
very disappointed at missing him. ..." 

Not a word of Beethoven. Nobody in Weimar told them. Goethe, 
who knew it, did not tell them that Beethoven was dying and that 
Hummel had gone to close his eyes. This concealment seems hor- 
rible to me. 

117 Since January 29, 1814. 

118 1 have in my collection a call-sheet of the Hoftheater in 
Weimar, signed "Goethe," dated September 19, 1816, in which 
we read: 

Monday, September 23rd: Nathan. 

Tuesday, September 24th: Rehearsal of Griselda. 

Afternoon, general rehearsal of Fidelio. 
Wednesday, September 25th: Performance of the Opera 

This was two years after the performances in Vienna. 

119 Why should he have deprived himself of one of his mental 
powers ? He needed them all. 

"Are we to give first place to the historian or to the poet? This 
question should never be asked. They are not rivals, any more than 
the runner and the wrestler. Each deserves his laurel crown" 
(Gedanken in Prosa, part IV, 1825). 

120 He was fond of quoting the French saying: "Voir venir les 
choses est le meilleur moyen de les 'expliquer.' " 

121 Rochlitz intended to organize in Weimar a much more im- 
portant series of lectures, with musical illustrations, dealing with 
the five principal periods of musical history in Germany and Italy, 

230 = 

during the preceding three centuries. The cholera epidemic of 1831 
prevented this plan from being carried out. 

122 Even when we revert to the great works of the past (and each 
period selects different works from that great library: yesterday, 
Beethoven and Wagner; to-day, Bach and Mozart) it is never the 
past which comes to life in us; it is we ourselves who cast our 
shadows on the past, with our desires, our problems, our sense of 
order or our confused thinking. The Bach of our day has nothing 
in common with the Bach of Goethe's day, not to speak of Bach 
himself. We can never hope to penetrate the inner self of 

123 Th e standard work on this subject is that mine of information, 
Die Tonkunst in Goethes Leben, 2 vols., by Wilhelm Bode. Berlin, 
1912, {Music in Goethe's life), completed by the same author's 
other work Goethes Schauspieler und Musiker, 1 vol. Berlin. 1912. 
{Goethe's Actors and Musicians.) 

There is nothing in Goethe's life which Bode does not know, but 
Bode is not a musician. The same subject, however, has been treated 
from the musician's point of view by Hermann Abert, an eminent 
writer on music, in his excellent work, Goethe und die Musik (J. 
Engelhom's Nachf. Stuttgart, 1922). The principal feature of this 
little book is the reconstruction of the musical atmosphere in which 
Goethe lived ; the author shows clearly to what extent Goethe agreed 
with the ideas of the time on music in general and on the different 
forms of music, Lied, opera, and instrumental music, and in what 
way his art reacted upon the music of his time, and vice versa. 

I must also mention the writings on this subject by Wasielewsky, 
Philip Spitta, and Max Friedlaender. 

124 Seine Freude am Klange. 

125 The actor Genast, in his memoirs, shows him forbidding the 
public to laugh at a performance of Ion in 1802, and calling to 
order rowdy students of Jena at a performance of Schiller's Rauber 
{The Robbers) in 1808. Here is another amusing anecdote, told by 
the music historian, Christian Lobe {vide his conversation with 

= 231 

Goethe, pages 58 and 59 of this book). Lobe was then young, 
and very much in love with an actress who was playing in Turandot 
at Weimar. He had slipped into a dark corner of the theatre during 
the rehearsal, and tried to watch her from behind a column. But as 
she was on his side of the stage he could not see her. Lobe came 
out from his hiding-place, and from seat to seat worked his way 
to the centre of the stalls. He saw his beloved, she saw him, and 
the silly young lovers exchanged signs of recognition. Lobe, in his 
joy, rose, without thinking, from his seat. Suddenly, from the depth 
of a box, thundered the bass voice of His Excellency von Goethe, 
"Remove that dirty mongrel from my sight!" ("Schafft mir doch den 
Scbweinehund aus den Augen!") Lobe fled, jumping over the 
seats, stumbling, falling, in utter confusion and shame, with the 
laughter of the actors ringing in his ears. Only long after did he 
hear that Goethe's vigorous remark was not addressed to him, but 
to the coach and accompanist, Eilenstein, a drunkard, who was 
strumming on the piano a fantastic march which had derived its 
inspiration from the bottle. 

126 Like Beethoven, he composed many of his poems as he walked 
and sang, and there is a good reason why a number of them have 
the title "The Wanderer." A significant passage in the Wander jahre 
("Years of Wandering") of Wilhelm Meister reveals to us the 
musical character of his creative process: 

"It often happens that a hidden genius whispers a rhythm to 
me, so that, as I wander about, I am always moving to it. I hear 
faint sounds, too, the accompaniment of a Lied which somehow 
pleasantly suggests itself to me." {"Mir scheint oft ein geheimer 
Genius etwas Rhythmisches vorzufiustern, so doss ich mich beim 
Wandern jedesmal im Takt bewege und zugleich leise Tone zu 
vernehmen glaube, wodurch denn irgendein Lied begleitet wird, 
doss sich mir auf eine oder die andere Weise gefallig vergegen- 
wartigt") III. I. 

Thus, it is first the rhythm which forms the framework, then the 
melody which clothes it. Finally there is the poem itself. Abert 

232 = 

correctly states that the rhythm is the soul of the "inner music" 
from which Goethe's poems have sprung. "Der Takt kommt aus der 
poetischen Stimmung, wie unbewusst" ("The rhythm is the uncon- 
scious outcome of the poetical mood") (to Eckermann April 6th, 

127 Bode, op. cit., II, 345. 

128 re Meb?e Seele lost sich nach und nach dutch die lieblichen 
Tone aus den Banden der Protokolle und Akten" ("Pleasant musical 
sounds gradually set my soul free from the bonds of juridical 
protocols and acts") (February 22, 1779). After his almost fatal 
illness of 1801 his first desire was to hear music. 

129 During the Seven Years' War the French were in occupation 
of Frankfurt for four years. Their theatrical companies came from 

130 Gluck's importance for Goethe, as for Herder and Klopstock, 
depended not only upon his beautiful and classic construction of a 
tragedy set to music with choruses, which called to mind the old 
Greek tragedies, but also upon the happy enunciation which he 
secured of the music latent in poetical speech. His small collection 
of Lieder written to Klopstock's odes and particularly that very 
short masterpiece "Die jrilhen Graber" ("The Graves of the 
Young") was an unsurpassed model for all the German artists of 
the period. He thus showed the poets the way to a Sprachmelodie 
("melodic speech"), a melody of the word, a musical poetry. It is 
difficult to realize nowadays what a fountain of study these short 
odes, so soberly clad in music, were for the greatest writers of that 
generation in Germany. 

131 On May 6, 1776, while in the mountains near Ilmenau, he 
wrote his "Rastlose Liebe" ("Restless Love"). 

132 A fine letter from Wieland to Gluck, written on June 13, 
1776, tells us of his attempts to approach Goethe, who alone was 
worthy to write such a work, and the unfortunate circumstances 
which prevented his plan from being carried out. ... "I went to 
sec him and showed him your letter. I found him next day already 

= 233 

full of a great scheme on this subject; I could see it taking shape, 
and was delighted with it, notwithstanding the gteat difficulties. 
But nothing seems impossible to Goethe. I saw how lovingly he 
tended it. Give him but a few days of peace and solitude and what 
I read in his soul would become a reality. . . . But Fate granted 
neither him nor you this consolation. . . . His situation here be- 
came continually more and more difficult, and his activity was 
distracted in other directions. ... In short, there is now prac- 
tically no hope that he will in the near future complete the work 
which he began. He certainly did not abandon it of his own free 
will. I know that from time to time he is still seriously working at 
it; but what can one expect when, on account of his many duties, 
he has not a single day he can call his own? However, knowing 
this great mortal {den herrlichen Sterblichen) as I do, I feel certain 
that he will complete it yet . . ." 

133 May 25, 1776. 

134 It has been suggested that it was the first sketch of his 

135 I have collected quite a number of documents bearing on this 
tragic event in Gluck's life. Among these original letters is one from 
"the little Chinese girl" to Abbe Arnaud, which I think is unique, 
and also the moving letter from Gluck to Klopstock, written on 
May 10, 1776, two weeks after his niece's death. 

13G In the grand-ducal library at Weimar there is a magnificent 
bust of Gluck, purchased by the grand duke directly from the 
sculptor Houdon, in Paris, in 1775. 

137 His letters to Kayser, 1785-86, show how thoroughly he had 
studied Gluck, his operas, and his Lieder. 

138 Diary. May 13, 1780- January 7, 1781. 

139 He had them sung by his private choir. 

140 He shared the same taste with Herder in Weimar. 

141 For the tercentenary of the Reformation, October 31, 1817. 

142 To Karl Gottlieb Freudenberg, 1825. 

143 We cannot understand, however, why he did not try to col- 


laborate with him. No doubt on account of his friendship with 
Kayser. It was one of the characteristics of this great artist always 
to sacrifice art to friendship if the two were in conflict. 

144 The auditorium of the theatre had been burnt out in 1774, 
shortly before Goethe's arrival (1775). The company was dis- 
banded and an entirely fresh start had to be made. It was a thankless 
task, especially as far as music was concerned. 

145 It is interesting to note that since 1795 Goethe had intended 
to write a sequel to the Magic Flute, the value of which he defended 
against the criticism of most of his friends. In 1798 Effland en- 
couraged him to do it, but Schiller dissuaded him. He published a 
fragment of it. As late as 1801 he mentioned it to Zelter as a 
musical poem. Abert, who analysed the fragment, thinks that it is 
preparatory to the second Faust and considers that of all of Goethe's 
poems this is the most suitable for interpretation by music in its most 
varied forms, from tragedy in the style of Gluck to the German 
ballad opera (Singspiel). The chorus plays an independent part. 
Simple prose is mingled with free rhythm in rhyme. 

146 Nevertheless, in 1827 he regretted that he could not derive 
the same pleasure as before from hearing the Magic Flute. 

147 Eckermann, unfortunately, had no one better to suggest than 
Rossini, and Goethe, on the other hand, proposed Meyerbeer! 
Beethoven's name was not mentioned, even as a regretful after- 
thought. Yet we know that to write the music to Faust was one of 
Beethoven's ardent desires, and that Goethe's friend Rochlitz had 
been asked by the publisher Breitkopf to propose the poem to 
Beethoven in 1822. 

148 Goethe died on March 22nd. 

149 Gluck was given only very rarely, in spite of Goethe's wish. 
Iphigenie auf Tauris was performed in 1800, and Armida in 1832. 

150 June 24, 1826. "Every day I am fonder of music which ex- 
cites (das Aufregende)," he had written forty years previously, in 
1787, during his travels in Italy, where the sugary sentimentality 
of the Opera Seria bored him. 

= 235 

i5i November 9, 1829. 

152 His pupil, Johann Kasper Vogler, was organist in Weimar for 
forty-four years, until 1765. 

153 In 1800. I have described this conversation on page 218. 

154 Eduard Genast, "Aus Weimars Klassischer und Nachklas- 
sischer Zeit" (Weimar's classical and post-classical period). 

155 March 11, 21, and April 17, 1828. Soon after these great 
performances, Mendelssohn came to spend two weeks in Weimar. 
He spoke of them to Goethe and played some excerpts to him. 
Goethe was delighted to find that, contrary to what had happened 
in the case of Mozart, his taste for Bach's music had not weakened. 
He listened to Mendelssohn "with pleasure, interest, and reflection" 

156 "It almost seems," wrote Zelter, "as if the whole ensemble 
were an organ each pipe of which is endowed with intelligence, 
energy, and will power, without mannerisms and without being 
forced, in any way (Zwang)." 

157 Bach's music makes him think of God in the Book of Genesis. 
His fine saying is well known: "Ah wenn die ewige Harmonie sich 
mit sich selbst unterhielte, wie sicb's etwa in Gottes Busen, kurz 
vor der Weltschopfung mochte zugetragen haben" (It is as if 
the Eternal Harmony soliloquized, as must have happened in God's 
bosom just before the Creation) (Correspondence with Zelter, II, 
95. Reclam edition). 

158 "Man's self, in so far as he employs his healthy senses, is the 
most powerful and the most accurate physical apparatus in existence" 
(Letter of 1808 to Zelter, to which I shall refer again later). Goethe 
invariably opposes the tenets of mathematicians and physicians which 
suggest a dependence on artificial instruments without regard to the 
living man, the most perfect of all instruments. 

150 Goethe was delighted to hear that Bach's contemporaries 
were amazed at the skill and agility of his legs at die organ, a fact 
which supported his own theory. Zelter, poking fun at the mania of 

236 ^^ 

the great man, his friend, on this subject, said, "Without feet Bach 
would never have reached the height of his genius." 

160 n e corresponded with the philologist, Friedrich A. Wolf, on 
the subject of Greek music. 

161 1808. 

162 On the other hand, in 1810 Zelter gave him a lecture on 
Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli. 

163 1 have already remarked how often excessive scruples of 
friendship, much as they were to his honour, harmed him 

164 Between 1824 and 1832 he read a number of books and 
treatises on music, notably those of Rochlitz on the subject of the 
fugue, the origins of opera, on church music from the days of 
Orlando Lasso and so on. He read carefully the musical journals, 
particularly the Caecilia of Gottfried Weber. 

Nor must we forget the importance which he attaches to the 
schoolmaster's role in music. In Wilhelm Aleiste/s Years of Wan- 
dering (II, 1), music is at the root of all instruction. It is the 
central point from which all roads diverge: exercises of the hand, 
the ear, the eye, writing, arithmetic, etc. 

165 He mentions them in his letters 1829-31. 

ice Festschrift zu R. V. Liliencron's 90 Geburtstage. 

167 He returned to it in 1831. 

168 1808. 

169 Compare the definition of the minor in his Prose Thoughts, 
Part VII: "The minor mode is the harmony of passionate desire. 
The desire which aspires to what is far off but which concentrates 
melodiously within itself, produces the minor mode" {"Die 
Sehnsucht die nach aussen, in die Feme strebt, sich aber tnelodisch 
in sich selbst beschrankt, erzeugt den Minor") (Nachlass). 

170 For a solution of this musical puzzle I have resorted to the 
kindly erudition of the two undoubted experts on the history of the 
songs of the people in France and Germany — M. Julien Tiersot, 
the historian of Rougct de Lisle, and Professor Max Friedlaender, 

= 237 

who has nothing to learn on the subject of the German Volkslied 
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The exact information 
which they have been good enough to afford me makes Beethoven's 
silence still more remarkable. 

In an appendix to this book will be found a brief history of the 
Marseillaise in Germany, where it became immediately well known, 
though its significance was curiously misunderstood. 

171 February 19, 1815. This impression clearly echoes that which 
Goethe directly received at Mainz twenty-two years before, and 
which he recorded in his story of the siege after the French garrison 
had marched out. "The most remarkable scene, and the one which 
struck all of us, was the appearance of the light cavalry. They ad- 
vanced upon us in complete silence; suddenly their band struck up 
the Marseillaise. There is something mournful and threatening in 
this Te Deum of the Revolution even when it is played in lively 
fashion. On this occasion, however, it was played very slowly in 
time to their slow pace. The effect was terrible and awe-inspiring" 
(from Porchat's French translation). 

172 At which Zelter, who had never considered the matter at all, 
cried in astonishment, "You and he (Le Neveu de Rameau) under- 
stand music better than I." 

173 It seems that he heard a piece by Beethoven for the first time 
five months later. 

174 1831. 

175 The strange letter from Bettina to Goethe, about Christmas, 
1810, which I translate in an appendix to this book, is further 

176 Goethe, a year old when Jean Sebastian Bach died, and ten 
years old when Handel died, was born the same year as Cimarosa. 
He was twenty-five when Jommelli died, forty-two when Mozart 
died, and sixty the year of Haydn's death. But he was twenty-seven 
years of age when Weber was born, forty-eight when Schubert was 
born, and fifty-four in the year of Berlioz's birth. 

177 In the Lieder in which the music is written under his dictation, 

238 ^^ 

if one may so express it, he insists that the music should follow the 
minutest details in the text, the divisions into verses and strophes, 
the punctuation and the declamation. When the poem contains 
several strophes he must have the same melody for each; it is the 
singer's business to vary the expression. In 1822 again, speaking of 
a setting by Tomaschek, of his Kennst du das Land, which he likes, 
he expresses his displeasure with Beethoven and Spohr, who have 
disregarded his instructions with regard to the return of the melody 
with each strophe. Where he has written "Lied," he will not allow 
it to be turned into an "Aria." 

178 I too have heard Clara Schumann speak of the old Goethe 
who raised her higher on her chair, so that her baby hands could 
reach the keys. May I not say that I have seen Goethe? 

179 This curious passion for libretti persisted till his very last 
years. In 1828 he amused himself by rewriting the libretto for 
Rossini's Moses. He wanted to rewrite his Tancredi in the form of a 
favola boscareccia in the fashion of Poussin. A month before his 
death, in February, 1832, he dictated a long essay on the poems of 
Jouy, the librettist of Spontini. He was enthusiastic over Handel's 
verse, and could not forgive Weber those of Euryanthe and Oberon. 
Here Beethoven shared his views ; in the eyes of both the best opera 
libretto was that of The Water Carrier of Cherubini. 

He would never judge an opera independently of the words. The 
words must always be the first consideration. 

"I don't understand you, my friends," he said in 1828. "How 
can you possibly separate the subject from the music and enjoy one 
without regard to the other? I marvel at you. How can the hearing 
contrive to appreciate the pleasures of harmony, when the sight, 
most powerful of the senses, is tortured by the imbecility of the 
subject. ..." 

Instead of sight he might well have said reason, and reason is 
the subject of the rest of the homily. But as a matter of fact the eye 
was, with Goethe, the organ of reason. 

He was right. Most musicians possess very poor sight, and still 

= 239 

less reason. We do not blame them for it, so long as their ears are 
long. But there is nothing to compel them to put their music into 
operas, that is to say to torture both sight and common sense. I 
cordially approve Goethe's sentiments, and Beethoven I know would 
have cried, "Bravo." 

180 The most curious of these musical works of his early youth is 
a Concerto Dramatico composto dal Sigr. Dottore Flamminio, detto 
P ami r go Secondo, written at Frankfurt in the autumn of 1772. (It 
may be found on pp. 77-82. Vol. Ill, of Der Junge Goethe, Max 
Morris edition, 1910, Inselverlag.) This "concerto," the word being 
used in the old meaning of "cantata," was composed "for per- 
formance in the Gemeinschaft der Heiligen, at Darmstadt." It is a 
ludicrous succession of pieces which are given musical titles, with 
expression and tempo marks: Tempo giusto C, Allegretto % Arioso, 
Allegro con furia, Cantabile, Lamentabile ; ein wenig geschwinder 
con speranza, Allegro con spirito, Choral, Capriccio con variazioni 
1, 2, 3; Air Francois, Molto andante, Con expressione, and, to end 
up, Presto fugato with a double choir imitating in burlesque fashion 
the sounds of the instruments: "Dum du, dum du. Dum dim di di 
du (bis) Hohu! Hohu! . . . 

181 December 29, 1779. 

182 January 20, 1780. 

183 Abert has analysed these libretti and has made a list of the 
many and varied forms of aria, ensemble, and chorus. He shows 
that Goethe had a remarkable knowledge of every kind of theatrical 
music of his time, French, Italian and German. 

184 Meanwhile Goethe heard at Weimar and in Italy (September 
3, 1786 — June 18, 1788) a number of Italian opere buffe by Goldoni, 
Piccinni, Salieri, and Cimarosa. He drank them in; he revised and 
rearranged his old Singspiele in the light of his new experience of 
the Italian stage. He even intended to put his Scherz, List und 
Rache into Italian. German now seemed to him a barbarische Sprache 
to set to music. Ah! had he only known twenty years ago what he 
knows today. He would have made a study of Italian so as to write 

240 ^^ 

for the lyric stage. He had another reason for his preference for 
Italian, and a very singular one, the need which he felt for the 
employment of a foreign language, Italian or Latin, to represent 
remarkable events on the stage, heroes in the throes of love, singing 
as they struggle and die (Letters of 1786). About this time he set 
Kayser to work on the music of Egmont, and wrote for him an 
opera the subject of which was taken from the recent story of 
Cagliostro, and the affair of the Queen's Necklace. His first sketch 
for the opera was in Italian. 

185 Based on the old phrase "saltare comoediam," literally, to 
"leap," comedy, an expression dating from the lines when come- 
dians were jesters (saltatores) and jumped rather than walked. 

186 One cannot over-emphasize the importance which Goethe 
invariably attached to moral qualities in the artists whose friendship 
he sought or accepted, though this has always been denied by his 
critics. He persisted in this attitude in spite of the artistic loss which 
it involved. There was no question of a reasoned choice in the 
matter; it was a vital instinct. 

187 Kayser produced in 1777 a collection of Lieder {Gesange mit 
Begleitung des Klaviers), and Goethe also had his friend's Lieder 
published in several volumes. Bode reproduces some examples in his 
book on Goethe and music. These Lieder display a certain lightness 
of touch, and their expression is apt and simple. The score of 
Scherz, List, und Rache is kept at the Goethe National Museum 
at Weimar. Ferdinand Hiller and Max Friedlaender have spoken 
favourably of it. 

188 At the end of 1789 another project of his, the result of this 
same devotion to Gluck, which Reichardt shared with him, was a 
tragedy set to music with choruses in the old classical style, Die 
Danaiden. Goethe was working on this idea during the following 
ten years. 

189 w e already find in the production of his Proserpina, in 1815, 
the three Norns, the three Parcas (comp. Genast, p. 134). 

1!, ° During the first period of his direction of the Weimar theatre 

= 241 

he got Reichardt to write the music for his ballad operas Erwin, 
Claudine, and Jery. He had his Cagliostro played as a comedy in 
1791 under the title of Der Grosskophta; he would have made an 
opera of it had not he lost all hope of seeing it put on the stage. 
We may add that he had converted his theatre at Weimar into a 
little model stage for operetta, and produced the Italian intermezzi 
(short musical plays). He brought with him from Italy the text of 
twenty-three opere bujfe by Cimarosa, Anfossi, and others, and 
translated several of them. 

191 All the fault seems to have been Schiller's ; he was quick- 
tempered and very easily upset. He persuaded Goethe into an 
insulting attack on Reichardt in Die Xenien. Reichardt never lost 
his fine dignity, never for a moment considered that these affronts 
released him from the obligations of faithful service which he 
owed to the genius and the person of Goethe. 

192 In 1820 again Goethe wrote to Zelter, "I feel at once the 
identity of your compositions with my Lieder. The music is simply 
a lifting force, like the gas in a balloon. With other composers I 
have always to examine the music to see what view they have taken 
of the Lied and how they have dealt with it." 

To know Zelter's Lieder is therefore a matter which should interest 
us deeply: through them we may realize exactly the feelings of 
Goethe. For this reason I advise the reading of the fine Lied of the 
Harpist in With elm Meister, "Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergiebt." 
It is a model of noble, simple and manly emotion. 

193 There are few stories more moving than the passing, almost 
at the same time, of the two friends. Goethe died on March 22nd. 
Zelter, who had written him yet another letter on that very day, 
lost in a moment all his powers and joy of life. He aged ten years 
in a single day. With trembling lips he said, "I have lost my dearest 
friend on earth" ("Ich habe mein Liebstes auf Erden verloren"). 
Again he said, "I am like a widow who has lost her man, her lord, 
the provider of her substance." Early in May he felt seriously ill. 
Going to his bedroom, he bowed his head gravely before Goethe's 

242 = 

bust, and said, "Your Excellency naturally took precedence of me, 
but now I follow you" ("Excellenz halten natiirlich den Vortritt, 
aber ich folge bald nacb"). He took to his bed, and died on May 
15 th. Who shall say now that Goethe could not love and inspire 

194 The collection of Goethe's Lieder, composed by Zelter, was 
published in 1810-12 under the title Samtliche Lieder, Balladen, 
und Romanzen in four volumes. Reichardt preceded Zelter with his 
collection of Goethe's Lieder in four parts (1809). 

195 p r i nC e Radziwill had been working at it since 1810. His Faust, 
fragments of which Goethe heard in 1811, was given in part (two 
big scenes) in May, 1819, before the court in a Berlin palace; a 
prince played Mephisto. The score was published in 1834-35 and 
the opera was performed over a period of twenty years. Reichardt's 
collection of Goethe's Lieder (1809) included, among some re- 
markable Deklamationsstucke, a fragment of Faust, part of the 
dialogue between Faust and Marguerite in the garden. 

Even quicker was Bettina, who, as early as January, 1808, was 
"drinking in" the Faust compositions. She wrote Marguerite's prayer, 
"Ach neige, du Schmerzensreiche." 

196 Fourteen years later (1828-29) Eberwein, at long last, un- 
derstood. To celebrate Goethe's eightieth birthday he arranged a 
performance of a Faust with music; this was given from time to 
time up to 1870, and later. Bode quotes several fragments in his 
second volume, pp. 294-307. They have no great value. 

197 It is to be observed that he had just declined to write a 
Samson for Zelter. It was a wrathful refusal. He had no use, he 
said, for Jews on the stage, particularly for Samson with "the over- 
whelming and bestial passion of an immensely powerful God-gifted 
hero for the most accursed woman's flesh that the earth ever knew" 
("die ganz bestialische Leidenschaft eines iiberkraftigen, gottbe- 
gabten Helden zu dem verfiuchtesten Luder das die Erde tragt"). 
He knew nothing at that time of Handel's masterly picture of the 

= 243 

i9s There were two other projects of the same period — a fragment 
of dialogue with chorus, Der Lowenstuhl (1814), which has a 
romantic colouring, and a Persian subject which the atmosphere of 
the Divan suggested to him, Feradeddin and Kolaila (1816). 

199 I have already noted that from October, 1808, Beethoven was 
making a vain search for some one to adapt Faust for the stage. 

200 When his faithful comedian, Genast, took leave of him shortly 
before Goethe himself was compelled to resign, the latter sent him 
these two lines written on a drawing: 

"Zur Erinnrung triiber Tage 
Voll Bemuhen, voller Plage" 

("In memory of troublous days, days of sorrow, days of anguish.") 

201 January 29, 1827. 

Eckermann seems to have found it odd that a piece "should 
begin as a tragedy and finish as an opera." Goethe replied: "Yes, 
it is so. But such is my will." 

202 N.B. He was eighty years old (1829). 

203 Here we must recall the remarkable spectacle of the aged 
dreamer as he appeared, ten days before his death, to Bettina's 
young son, "He now seems to belong to another world rather than 
to this; what passes here below is utterly lost to him in the visions 
of his imagination." (See my essay on Bettina in this book.) 

204 Many musicians have tried their hand. But not one, not even 
Schumann, who attempted the final scene in Faust (in heaven), 
had the twofold genius of north and south upon which Goethe 
insisted and which he himself possessed. 

205 Lehrjahre, IV. 2. 

206 I might have added "choruses." One of the questions which 
occupied him most was that of the chorus in tragedy. The chorus 
in Greek tragedy had a powerful attraction for him as it had in the 
compositions of Handel and Gluck, who seemed to him, rightly 
as we think, the heirs of the great choral art of antiquity. He ex- 
perimented with various possibilities in his poems set to music, 


and especially in the second Faust. The main problem was the 
practical realization, upon the stage, of these ideas. The Bride of 
Messina, at the Weimar Theatre, opened a field of experiment. 
Schiller had been content with the chorus in unison. The effect was 
pitiful; it was uninspired and confusing. Goethe, in the third act, 
divided the singers into two choruses, and used solos, duets, trios, 
and alternating choruses, with crescendos and decrescendos, with 
due regard to the registers of the different voices. (In the 
memoirs of Genast will be found some notes on his ingenious 

207 "Musik war sie zu nennen", said Genast of the form of 
declamation on which he insisted. ("His declamation could have 
been described as music") 

208 jj e was accused of "playing chess with his actors." 

209 To all who are interested in the theatre I commend the recol- 
lections of Genast, "Aus Weimars klassischer und nachklassischer 
Zeit. Erinnerungen eines alten Schauspielers." 

210 I have already emphasized the difference in this matter be- 
tween Goethe and Schiller. The latter was too fond of speech to 
music — that is, "melodrama." Goethe proclaimed the musical inde- 
pendence of the spoken word in poetry; with him this is an inde- 
pendent form of music with an existence of its own; it possesses 
within itself both orchestra and song. 

211 Goethe's declamation of poetry was in fact remarkable for 
light and shade. Pastor Ewald von Offenbach wrote in 1799: "He 
could express anything he wished without raising or lowering his 
pitch beyond a few tones. This declamation was graded in infinitely 
small intervals. Between C and D it would have been possible to 
distinguish perhaps as many as sixteen fractional tones which could 
not have been expressed in musical notation. The declamation was 
characterized by the attack or entry, the melody, the transition into 
another melody, and the return to the tone on which it had begun." 
This sounds like a description of the first movement of a sonata of 
the time. 

= 245 

But with age he lost this art or sacrificed it voluntarily to the 
"delight in sonority" {seine Freude am Klange). When he recited 
he was too fond of letting his fine bass voice resound and his pro- 
duction was "over-emphasized." This often met with criticism. He 
was better liked in his reading of comic passages, and Genast avers 
— who could have imagined it? — that he made an inimitable Falstaff. 
However, in conversation he always maintained a "soft and measured 
tone" (leise und gemessen) . But he had too much vigour and force, 
not to say brutality, in his make-up. His expression and his acting 
were at times so violent that at a rehearsal of King John the little 
actress who played opposite him — fainted (Genast). 

21 - Music in Goethe's poetry is a subject so vast and so profound 
that a whole book might be devoted to it. Perhaps some day I shall 
return to the matter. H. Abert in his little book has given it a short 
but effective chapter, "Das Musikalische in Goethes Lyrik." He 
shows how powerful was the influence in this direction which 
Herder excercised on the young Goethe at Strasbourg and how 
Goethe's genius forthwith evoked the melody which lay hidden in 
the heart of his poetic emotion. He calls attention to his free rhythm 
in verse and in prose (Werther), a stream of "infinite melody", as 
it were ; to his passages impregnated with actual music, to his great 
lyrical monologues in musical drama with their recitativi accom- 
pagnati, their arias, and their torrential rhythm, as in the Wanderers 
Sturmlied, Schwager Kronos, and Prometheus. Then, under Italian 
influence, Goethe passes from the free recitative to the arioso. 

Iphigenia marks the pinnacle of the watershed, the point of per- 
fection, where Dionysus, the spirit of impulsive flight, is tamed to 
harmony by the master hand of Apollo. On the further slope of 
life's mountain top, music, like a stream, returns to its river bed. The 
torrent subsides, the stream ripples slowly, restrained by the banks 
which ordered will and understanding have ordained; until, in the 
Wanderjahre, all that is left is a distant murmur, faintly echoed 
from the mind which encloses it as with a rampart. 

213 To this scrutiny we owe the two important publications of 

246 ^= 

Rheinhold Steig and Fritz Bergemann: Bettinas Leben und Brief - 
wechsel mit Goethe, 1921 and 1927. 

214 But in the family papers sold last year Maximiliana gave the 
incorrect date 1788 for the birth of Bettina. This mistake of three 
years, which has been unjustly attributed to Bettina, resulted in her 
sincere belief that she was nineteen and not twenty-two years old 
when she first met Goethe. . . . May we say that the probable 
effect of this illusion was that she was always younger than her age? 

215 "Mein erstes Lesen deiner Bucher! ich verstand sie nicht." 
"My first reading of your books. I didn't understand them" (Letter 
from Bettina to Goethe). 

216 She has not only sealed, as it were, with the world "child," 
the correspondence with Goethe which she published, Briefwechsel 
Goethes mit einem Kinde. She used it also in her first letters, "Euer 
Kind, Dein Herz und gut Madchen." Later, in the course of her 
spiritual affection for Schleiermacher, she called herself his "child" 
also, and begged for his fatherly love. In Bettina's soul, in all purity 
of heart, the idea of a father is always mingled with her greatest 

217 She reminded Goethe of this glorious moment in her letter 
of July 30, 1808: "When at last I found you — was it a dream? — 
Yes, as I write it seems a wonderful dream. My head rested upon 
your shoulder, I slept for a few minutes for the first time after 
four or five sleepless nights. . . ." 

218 A letter from Clemens Brentano to Achim von Arnim, in 
July, 1807, gives a most joyous account of the visit. Clemens saw 
the ring, a fine antique, set with the representation of a woman 
veiling herself. He had no idea, at that time, of putting a bad con- 
struction on his sister's relations with the old poet. He was more 
inclined to congratulate her. But twenty-five years later Clemens, 
then an old man himself, and a bigot also, was alarmed at the idea 
of Bettina publishing to the whole of Europe the story of her 
"shamelessness." Lujo Brentano recently published {"Der jugend- 
liche und der gealterte Clemens Brentano fiber Bettina und Goethe." 

= 247 

Sonderabdruck aus dem ]ahrbuch des freien Deutschen Hochstijts. 
Frankfurt, 1929) the lettet of horrified prudery which he wrote 
June 17, 1834, to his sister, after reading the proofs of the first 
pages of "Goethe's Letters to a Child." The tone of the letter displays 
an unconscious hypocrisy which would be disgusting if it were not 
absurd. He deplores that every man in Europe is to be told that 
Bettina cannot sit in well-brought up fashion on a sofa, and that, 
most improperly, she sat on the knees of a man who had not the 
decency to respect the good name of a poor foolish girl. . . . The 
monument to Goethe which she is having put up reminds one of 
the pyramids which cost Rhodopis her honour. What is to happen 
to her children? Her sons run the risk of insults leading to duels. 
Her daughters may be depraved as the result of the incident or be 
led to scorn their mother. . . . This man, righteous to the point 
of sanctity, imposes on his sister this act of penitence, that she 
should tear from the volume the shameless page and destroy it. . . . 
"Through the reading of such pages are worthy souls made to 
stumble. ..." And he begged her for the future to send him all 
the drafts for revision before having them printed. 

Bettina replied in trenchant fashion, with a disdainful hauteur 
but in an affectionate tone. She has nothing to hide. What is there 
to hide? She acted in all innocence, and it was the happiest hour 
of her life; everything she has been, everything she has done since, 
she owes to the ecstasy of that moment, the "ersten erquickenden 
paradiesischen Schlaf (the first, refreshing, heavenly sleep)." . . . 
What right have others to claim control over her? In all the diffi- 
cult trials of life they left her alone ; she has had no one to depend 
upon and no one troubled himself about her. Who now gives them 
the right to assume the role of guardians of morality? As for her 
children, she has no cause for concern. If they were to discover 
any evil in an affair so simple and innocent, they would not be her 
children; she would refuse to recognize them. Thank God, she 
means to preserve them from such bigotry and hypocrisy. And she 
calls her brother an "old nightcap" (alte Schlaf mutze) . 

248 ^= 

Clemens, much annoyed, replied in the "style of Chanaan."* He 
condoled, in hypocritical terms, with his "poor" sister, and managed 
very cleverly to insert in his letter the most offensive allusions under 
the cloak of kindness. After having compared her to a naked 
Phryne, he cruelly reminded her of Arnim, "the noble father whom 
she had forgotten," and the sorrow which the children must feel. 
Then came disparaging remarks on Goethe, with whom Germany 
will now have nothing to do; nobody buys his works, and in 
fact, "the enthusiasm for him has never been genuine." Then he 
referred again to "the poor good Arnim" . . . and "that poor, 
silly, godless Bettina. ..." 

But Bettina refuted vehemently the allusion to her "poverty," 
which was all too real, and to the "pity" which the bigoted brother 
offered her, with the poisoned flowers of his eloquence. We see her 
as she stands, proudly aloof, with her Goethe and her God. 

219 "You are my daughter. May my son be a brother to you. . . . 
I am sure that he loves you." 

220 The "thou" made its first timid appearance at the end of the 
letter of October 6, 1807, to which I have already referred. It is 
found at the end where the "thou" and the "you" are mixed up in 
childish fashion: "Euer Kind, Dein Herz und gut Madchen, das 
den Gothe gar zu lieb, allein ilber alles lieb hat, und sich mit seinem 
Andenken uber alles trosten kann" ("Your child, thy heart, thy 
little girl who loves Goethe very, very much, loves him only and 
loves him above all else and whose memory can console her in 
everything"). But the "thou" only appears regularly with the letters 
of December, 1807. 

221 We find it for the first time on February 22, 1809. 

222 "The day when I left you, with a kiss — it was not the kiss 
which parted us! — I stayed for a whole hour alone in the next room, 
the room with the piano, and sat on the floor in a corner. . . . You 
were there, too, quite near me and you never knew it. ... I 

* Translator^ Note. — Chanaan, the son of Shem, cursed by Noah. 


laughed and cried at the same time. ..." (beginning of January, 

-~ 3 A month before she had told him of Arnim's love for 
her. . . . "Poor" Arnim (I find myself writing like her brother 
Clemens! . . . ) 

224 She had Goethe's son with her at Frankfurt in April, 1808, 
and treated him tenderly. 

225 November 3, 1809- 

226 "I cannot fight against you, dear Bettina. You are the best of 
all my friends, in what you write, in your acts of kindness, in your 
gifts, and in the love and delight which you bring me. I cannot, 
therefore, do otherwise than abandon myself to the joy which is 
mine, and give you in return all my love, even if I must do so in 

227 She had, however, written to him in March or April (see her 
letter of July 6th). 

228 And, on October 25 th of the same year, "all your dear pages, 
which reached me one after the other." Not one of them has come 
down to us. 

229 Auction Catalogue 148. Karl Ernst Henrici, Berlin. (February 
27-28, 1929.) No. 42, p. 16. 

230 1 am not referring to the other sacrifice, the one which 
Bettina made. She had intended to incorporate these beautiful 
reminiscences in a book which she would write. But to her loving 
heart it seemed only a small gift. 

231 October 18, 1810. 

232 November 4, 1810. 

233 "\Y/h at would Goethe have thought, if he could have looked 
over Bettina's shoulder as she wrote down her convictions, and if he 
could have read the draft (probably dating from 1826) in which 
she compared herself to "a spider weaving her net round Goethe, 
ensnaring him softly, softly. . . ." "And he will not be able to 
escape!" (Auction Catalogue 148. K. E. Henrici.) 

234 Letter to Moritz Carriere. March 26, 1849. 

250 ^^ 

235 In Goethes Briefivechsel mit einem Kinde (1835 Edition), 
and the book of 1927 by Fritz Bergemann which has been quoted 
(p. 206) there is a drawing of Bettina's suggested monument. It is 
in the neo-antique style of Thorwaldsen, which Goethe liked — only 
too much, and its academic grandeur possesses no feature which 
would appeal to us were it not for a little detail, a very womanly 
one, which sheds a glow of love on the cold marble: it is the little 
Psyche, symbolizing Bettina in the monument, who touches with 
her fingers the strings of the huge lyre of the impassive giant and 
puts her little bare foot on the bare foot of Goethe. 

236 This was a last profession of faith in individualism: "Let 
everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole city will 
be clean (Ein jeder kehre vor seiner Thiir — und rein ist jedes 
Stadtquartier) ." 

237 The young man had been deeply moved by his appearance. 
"He now seems to belong to another world rather than to this; 
what passes here below (das Irdische) is utterly lost to him in 
the visions of his imagination." 

238 All the passages which I have quoted from her letters in 
these essays are taken from the authentic correspondence which has 
been compared with the originals. 

239 Max Friedlaender published a selection of her compositions as 
a supplement to Goethes Briefivechsel mit einem Kinde, Propylaen 
Verlag, 1920. 

Among the manuscripts sold in 1929 was a Kompositionsbuch 
of about a hundred pages, containing her compositions to Lieder by 
Goethe, Arnim, and JHolderlin, whose genius she was one of the 
first to recognize. In this book she also wrote some of her thoughts, 
among others, "On the importance of the pause in music." She had 
studied counterpoint and fugue. Music holds an important place 
in her correspondence which would be worth a special study, for 
Bettina's intuitions, though she groped in the dark, delve deeply 
at times. At the end of this essay I am giving the translation of 

= 251 

.i strange letter to Goethe, which is, as it were, a monologue on 

240 The Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and the Prince of 

•mi "\v/ e d n0 t i et flies defile pure gold," he wrote to her. 

MS "The king knows that I share your contempt for the censor- 
ship and your aversion to it." Humboldt's letter to Bettina. Auction 
Catalogue 148. Henrici No. 81. 

243 He was released, became Minister of Finance during the 
Swabian revolution, and was later again sentenced to death. 

244 In 1848 we find him again as one of the leaders of the new 
Polish revolution. 

245 Auction Catalogue 148. Henrici No. 16. 

240 It often happened that these men, whose lives she had saved, 
did not inspire her sympathy at all. One of them was Kinkel. In 
one of her letters (1849) she expresses her disgust for him in 
pitiless terms; she speaks of his boastfulness, his presumption, his 
foolish vanity, and his noisiness. . . . "Truly, I have not done it 
for his sake! I did it because I had to do it. I did it for my own 
sake. But as a result, everyone has thrown stones at me" (Ibid. 
No. 111). 

247 Ibid. No. 119. 

248 The collection of letters sold included forty-two written to the 
Hungarian poet Kertbeny. They discuss ardently the struggles for 
Hungarian independence. Kertbeny sent her, in 1849, a flower 
plucked just before his execution by a man condemned to death. 

249 Memoirs of Mme. Irene Forbes-Mosse. 

250 Her only personal meeting with King Friedrich William IV 
appears to have been in April, 1845, a long audience at the Mon- 
bijou palace on the subject of her proteges. 

251 Comp. Goethe the Musician, p. 126. 

252 The following seems still more incredible. Herklots, a musician 
well known in northern Germany, in 1798 adapted the melody of 
the Marseillaise to a song in honour of the king of Prussia. I am 

252 ^= 

indebted to Professor Max Friedlaender for reminding me of this 
fact which Reichardt mentioned. 

253 Comp. Goethe the musician, p. 126. 

254 It was in 1830 that there appeared in northern Germany a 
Liederbuch fur deutsche Krieger und deutsches Volk by the school 
master Carl Weitershausen, who is careful to observe that in one of 
the songs of victory the melody of the Marseillaise seems to have 
been borrowed (noted by Max Friedlaender). 

255 See p. 28 of "Goethe and Beethoven" I, and p. 181 of the 
essay on Bettina. 

The letter written to Goethe is dated from Berlin, Christmas, 
1810 (pp. 333-334 of Bettinas Leben und Briefwechsel mit Goethe, 
published by Fritz Bergemann, 1927, Insel-Verlag) . 

It is not without hesitation that I hazard a free translation of this 
extraordinary monologue; it is as if one witnessed, in the dead 
watches of the night, the birth of a fevered strain of thought. The 
German historians and philologists themselves, who have made a 
study of Bettina' s writings, admit their doubt as to the meaning of 
certain phrases. Fortunately the paraphrase which Bettina made in 
her Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde in 1835 clears up 
several passages. Dare I maintain that the meaning of the letter, 
speaking generally, seems clear to me? The interest which I take 
in it encourages me to hope that many of my readers who are 
students of Beethoven will also find it clear. Obscured by the 
awkward and tentative expressions, there is to be found a lively 
and profound musical intuition ; we may glean from Bettina a better 
understanding of Beethoven's soul than she herself possessed. 

I have placed in brackets the passages taken from Bettina's para- 
phrase of 1835. 

250 when Bettina uses the word "magic" she means "the outcome 
of genius." 

257 ["Zelter, among others, will never allow anything to pass 
which he does not fully understand."] 

= 253 

258 Comp. Goethe's words to Humboldt, "Music is purely and 
simply irrational {die rente Unvernunft) : the written word is con- 
cerned with reason and with nothing else." 

259 "A u f die einzelnen Werkzeuge {Alenschen) ("on isolated 
instruments, that is, men") I interpret this as the rhythmic action 
and reaction which take place between the genius and the human 
race, one depending upon the other. Genius must have a substance 
in which to implant life. 

260 "\y je das Herz gebaut ist" ("according to the structure of 
each heart"). My reading of the paragraph is this. In the ages 
which are past music submitted to definite intellectual rules. Now- 
adays the subjectivity of the sentiment reigns supreme and genius 
is the master. But who can claim that these obscure forces will 
always be directed to the noblest end? 

26i ^'Zelter muss vermeiden, dem Beethoven gegenuberzustehen."~\ 
("Zelter must be careful not to fall foul of Beethoven"). 
™"Wie em Holzbock." 

263 Literally "wenn er dies will." 

264 "Wenn er sich nicht loss macht von den Handiverkern." 

265 "Uhrwerk." In Bettina's famous letter of July 1810, where 
she spoke for the first time to Goethe of Beethoven, this is the 
word which she employs to describe the whole of human effort as 
opposed to the one man Beethoven, the only untrammelled creator. 
"Just as the mechanism of a clock {Uhrwerk) centres upon an axis, 
so does every form of human activity centre upon him. He alone of 
himself brings to birth." . . . Comp. p. 18. 

266 Let us make a resume of this monologue which is charged 
with Beethoven's feeling, and with revolt against the school of 
thought which held him in contempt. 

Bettina pleads the cause of the irrational in art, and, above all, 
in music. She sets the genius who expresses freely the forces within 
him against the cold reasoners, the scholars who employ borrowed 
formulas. Music, if it would live, must release itself from the 
mechanical spirit, must discover the freedom of the will, the springs 

254 = 

of the vital forces. There is but one road by which it may be 
reached — meditation, concentration, inspiration. Beethoven has re- 
vealed to her the direct path. 

We should compare these ideas with those which her visit to 
Beethoven inspired during the previous spring according to the 
letters which I quoted early in my first essay. ("Goethe and 
Beethoven" Chapter I.) It is Beethoven's harvest; he himself was 
the sower. 







MAY n 9 '5 



NOV 3 U h 


TTB27 '62 

UkW * ' 

KAR 2 8 1 


sr? s 


Library Bureau Cat. no. 1137 

3 5002 00393 8458 

Rolland. Rom.nn 
Goethe and Beethoven, 

ML 410 . B4 R723 
Rolland, Remain, 1866 
Goethe and Beethoven